Author(s): Flesch FM, Gadella BM
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Abstract Sexual reproduction requires the fusion of sperm cell and oocyte during fertilization to produce the diploid zygote. In mammals complex changes in the plasma membrane of the sperm cell are involved in this process. Sperm cells have unusual membranes compared to those of somatic cells. After leaving the testes, sperm cells cease plasma membrane lipid and protein synthesis, and vesicle mediated transport. Biophysical studies reveal that lipids and proteins are organized into lateral regions of the sperm head surface. A delicate reorientation and modification of plasma membrane molecules take place in the female tract when sperm cells are activated by so-called capacitation factors. These surface changes enable the sperm cell to bind to the extra cellular matrix of the egg (zona pellucida, ZP). The ZP primes the sperm cell to initiate the acrosome reaction, which is an exocytotic process that makes available the enzymatic machinery required for sperm penetration through the ZP. After complete penetration the sperm cell meets the plasma membrane of the egg cell (oolemma). A specific set of molecules is involved in a disintegrin-integrin type of anchoring of the two gametes which is completed by fusion of the two gamete plasma membranes. The fertilized egg is activated and zygote formation preludes the development of a new living organism. In this review we focus on the involvement of processes that occur at the sperm plasma membrane in the sequence of events that lead to successful fertilization. For this purpose, dynamics in adhesive and fusion properties, molecular composition and architecture of the sperm plasma membrane, as well as membrane derived signalling are reviewed.
This article was published in Biochim Biophys Acta
and referenced in Andrology-Open Access