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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2011 Apr 1;3(4). pii: a006767. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a006767.

Ca2+ signaling during mammalian fertilization: requirements, players, and adaptations.

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Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA.


Changes in the intracellular concentration of calcium ([Ca(2+)](i)) represent a vital signaling mechanism enabling communication among cells and between cells and the environment. The initiation of embryo development depends on a [Ca(2+)](i) increase(s) in the egg, which is generally induced during fertilization. The [Ca(2+)](i) increase signals egg activation, which is the first stage in embryo development, and that consist of biochemical and structural changes that transform eggs into zygotes. The spatiotemporal patterns of [Ca(2+)](i) at fertilization show variability, most likely reflecting adaptations to fertilizing conditions and to the duration of embryonic cell cycles. In mammals, the focus of this review, the fertilization [Ca(2+)](i) signal displays unique properties in that it is initiated after gamete fusion by release of a sperm-derived factor and by periodic and extended [Ca(2+)](i) responses. Here, we will discuss the events of egg activation regulated by increases in [Ca(2+)](i), the possible downstream targets that effect these egg activation events, and the property and identity of molecules both in sperm and eggs that underpin the initiation and persistence of the [Ca(2+)](i) responses in these species.

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