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Dev Biol. 2011 Mar 15;351(2):266-76. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.01.003. Epub 2011 Jan 13.

The Ca2+ increase by the sperm factor in physiologically polyspermic newt fertilization: its signaling mechanism in egg cytoplasm and the species-specificity.

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Laboratory of Molecular Developmental Biology, Department of Applied Molecular Biosciences, Graduate School of Medicine, Yamaguchi University, Yamaguchi, Japan.


The newt, Cynops pyrrhogaster, exhibits physiological polyspermic fertilization, in which several sperm enter an egg before egg activation. An intracellular Ca(2+) increase occurs as a Ca(2+) wave at each sperm entry site in the polyspermic egg. Some Ca(2+) waves are preceded by a transient spike-like Ca(2+) increase, probably caused by a tryptic protease in the sperm acrosome at the contact of sperm on the egg surface. The following Ca(2+) wave was induced by a sperm factor derived from sperm cytoplasm after sperm-egg membrane fusion. The Ca(2+) increase in the isolated, cell-free cytoplasm indicates that the endoplasmic reticulum is the major Ca(2+) store for the Ca(2+) wave. We previously demonstrated that citrate synthase in the sperm cytoplasm is a major sperm factor for egg activation in newt fertilization. In the present study, we found that the activation by the sperm factor as well as by fertilizing sperm was prevented by an inhibitor of citrate synthase, palmitoyl CoA, and that an injection of acetyl-CoA or oxaloacetate caused egg activation, indicating that the citrate synthase activity is necessary for egg activation at fertilization. In the frog, Xenopus laevis, which exhibits monospermic fertilization, we were unable to activate the eggs with either the homologous sperm extract or the Cynops sperm extract, indicating that Xenopus sperm lack the sperm factor for egg activation and that their eggs are insensitive to the newt sperm factor. The mechanism of egg activation in the monospermy of frog eggs is quite different from that in the physiological polyspermy of newt eggs.

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