Identification of novel gamete receptors that mediate sperm adhesion to the egg coat. uri icon


  • Mammalian fertilization is initiated by the species-specific binding of sperm to the zona pellucida, or egg coat. Earlier studies suggested that sperm-egg adhesion in mouse is mediated by the binding of beta1,4-galactosyltransferase-I (GalT) on the sperm surface to specific glycoside ligands on the egg coat glycoprotein, ZP3. Binding of multiple ZP3 oligosaccharides induces GalT aggregation, triggering a pertussis toxin-sensitive G-protein cascade leading to induction of the acrosome reaction. Consistent with this, sperm bearing targeted deletions in GalT are unable to bind ZP3 nor undergo ZP3-dependent acrosomal exocytosis; however, GalT-null sperm are still able to bind to the egg coat. This indicates that sperm-egg binding requires at least two independent binding mechanisms: a GalT-ZP3-independent event that mediates initial adhesion, followed by a GalT-ZP3 interaction that facilitates acrosomal exocytosis. During the past few years, novel GalT-ZP3-independent gamete receptors have been identified that appear to participate in initial gamete adhesion. On such receptor is SED1, an EGF repeat and discoidin domain protein that coats sperm as they traverse through the epididymis, and which is required for sperm to bind the egg coat. Similarly, a novel egg coat ligand is present on ovulated oocytes, but not on ovarian eggs, and which also appears to function in initial sperm binding. The identification of novel gamete receptors that are required for sperm-egg binding opens up new avenues for the development of specific contraceptive strategies.

publication date

  • May 16, 2006