Egg activation is the series of events that must occur for a mature oocyte to become capable of supporting embryogenesis. These events include changes to the egg's outer coverings, the resumption and completion of meiosis, the translation of new proteins, and the degradation of specific maternal mRNAs. While we know some of the molecules that direct the initial events of egg activation, it remains unclear how multiple pathways are coordinated to change the cellular state from mature oocyte to activated egg. Using a proteomic approach we have identified new candidates for the regulation and progression of egg activation. Reasoning that phosphorylation can simultaneously and rapidly modulate the activity of many proteins, we identified proteins that are post-translationally modified during the transition from oocyte to activated egg in Drosophila melanogaster. We find that at least 311 proteins change in phosphorylation state between mature oocytes and activated eggs. These proteins fall into various functional classes related to the events of egg activation including calcium binding, proteolysis, and protein translation. Our set of candidates includes genes already associated with egg activation, as well as many genes not previously studied during this developmental period. RNAi knockdown of a subset of these genes revealed a new gene, mrityu, necessary for embryonic development past the first mitosis. Thus, by identifying phospho-modulated proteins we have produced a focused candidate set for future genetic studies to test their roles in egg activation and the initiation of embryogenesis.
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