Novel gamete receptors that facilitate sperm adhesion to the egg coat

Soc Reprod Fertil Suppl. 2007:63:367-83.


Mammalian fertilization is initiated by species-specific binding of the sperm to the zona pellucida, or egg coat. Previous studies suggested that sperm adhesion to the egg coat is facilitated, at least in part, through the binding of sperm surface beta1 ,4-galactosyltransferase I (GaIT) to glycoside chains on the egg coat glycoprotein, ZP3. Binding of multiple ZP3 oligosaccharides induces aggregation of GaIT within the sperm membrane, triggering, directly or indirectly, a pertussis toxin sensitive G-protein cascade leading to induction of the acrosome reaction. Consistent with this, spermatozoa bearing targeted deletions in GaIT are unable to bind ZP3 or undergo ZP3-dependent acrosomal exocytosis; however, unexpectedly, GaIT-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 GaIT-ZP3-independent event that mediates initial adhesion, followed by a GaIT-ZP3 interaction that facilitates acrosomal exocytosis. Our recent efforts have focused on the identification and characterization of these novel gamete receptors. One recently identified sperm protein that is required for sperm adhesion to the egg coat is SED1. SED1 is a bimotif protein composed of two Notch-like EGF repeats and two discoidin/complement F5/8 domains. SED1 is secreted by the epididymal epithelium and coats spermatozoa as they progress through the epididymis. Spermatozoa null for SED1 fail to bind the egg coat, illustrating its requirement for gamete adhesion. Interestingly, SED1 is also expressed by a variety of other epithelial tissues, where it appears to be required for epithelial morphogenesis and/or maintenance. A second novel gamete receptor has recently been identified on the coat of ovulated oocytes. This ZP3-independent, egg coat component is a high molecular weight, wheat germ agglutinin (WGA)-reactive glycoprotein that is derived from oviduct secretions and appears to participate in initial sperm adhesion. The amino acid sequence of this oviduct-derived ligand is currently being determined for the generation of peptide-specific antibodies and for the creation of knock out mice. 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 types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammals / metabolism*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ovum / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Sperm-Ovum Interactions / physiology*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • SED1 protein, mouse