Do human eggs attract spermatozoa?

Bioessays. 1999 Mar;21(3):203-10. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(199903)21:3<203::AID-BIES4>3.0.CO;2-T.


A key process in human fertilization is bringing the two gametes together, so that the complex molecular events involved in sperm and egg interaction can begin. Does nature allow fertilization to occur only as a consequence of a chance collision, or is there a precontact sperm-egg communication? This review summarizes the bioassays used in testing human spermatozoa for chemotaxis, emphasizing the necessity to distinguish between chemotaxis and other accumulation-causing processes, and the results obtained. It demonstrates that human sperm chemotaxis to a follicular factor(s) does occur, at least in vitro, and that only capacitated spermatozoa are chemotactically responsive. Substances that have been proposed as attractants for human spermatozoa are reassessed. The potential role of sperm chemotaxis in vivo is discussed. Faulty precontact sperm-egg communication may be one of the causes of male infertility, female infertility, or both. On the other hand, interfering with human sperm chemotaxis may represent an exciting new approach to contraception.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Chemotaxis / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ovum / physiology*
  • Sperm-Ovum Interactions / physiology*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*