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Mol Biol Evol. 2010 Jan;27(1):193-203. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msp221.

ZP domain proteins in the abalone egg coat include a paralog of VERL under positive selection that binds lysin and 18-kDa sperm proteins.

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Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, USA.


Identifying fertilization molecules is key to our understanding of reproductive biology, yet only a few examples of interacting sperm and egg proteins are known. One of the best characterized comes from the invertebrate archeogastropod abalone (Haliotis spp.), where sperm lysin mediates passage through the protective egg vitelline envelope (VE) by binding to the VE protein vitelline envelope receptor for lysin (VERL). Rapid adaptive divergence of abalone lysin and VERL are an example of positive selection on interacting fertilization proteins contributing to reproductive isolation. Previously, we characterized a subset of the abalone VE proteins that share a structural feature, the zona pellucida (ZP) domain, which is common to VERL and the egg envelopes of vertebrates. Here, we use additional expressed sequence tag sequencing and shotgun proteomics to characterize this family of proteins in the abalone egg VE. We expand 3-fold the number of known ZP domain proteins present within the VE (now 30 in total) and identify a paralog of VERL (vitelline envelope zona pellucida domain protein [VEZP] 14) that contains a putative lysin-binding motif. We find that, like VERL, the divergence of VEZP14 among abalone species is driven by positive selection on the lysin-binding motif alone and that these paralogous egg VE proteins bind a similar set of sperm proteins including a rapidly evolving 18-kDa paralog of lysin, which may mediate sperm-egg fusion. This work identifies an egg coat paralog of VERL under positive selection and the candidate sperm proteins with which it may interact during abalone fertilization.

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