At fertilization in mammals the sperm triggers a series of oscillations in intracellular Ca2+ within the egg. These Ca2+ oscillations activate the development of the egg into an embryo. It is not known how the sperm triggers these Ca2+ oscillations. There are currently three different theories for Ca2+ signaling in eggs at fertilization. One idea is that the sperm acts as a conduit for Ca2+ entry into the egg after membrane fusion. Another idea is that the sperm acts upon plasma membrane receptors to stimulate a phospholipase C (PLC) within the egg which generates inositol 1,4, 5-trisphosphate (InsP(3)). We present a third idea that the sperm causes Ca2+ release by introducing a soluble protein factor into the egg after gamete membrane fusion. In mammals this sperm factor is also referred to as an oscillogen because, after microinjection, the factor causes sustained Ca2+ oscillations in eggs. Our recent data in sea urchin egg homogenates and intact eggs suggests that this sperm factor has phospholipase C activity that leads to the generation of InsP(3). We then present a new version of the soluble sperm factor theory of signaling at fertilization. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 285:267-275, 1999.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.