Calcium (Ca(2+) ) signals drive the fundamental events surrounding fertilization and the activation of development in all species examined to date. Initial studies of Ca(2+) signaling at fertilization in marine animals were tightly linked to new discoveries of bioluminescent proteins and their use as fluorescent Ca(2+) sensors. Since that time, there has been rapid progress in our understanding of the key functions for Ca(2+) in many cell types and of the impact of cellular localization on Ca(2+) signaling pathways. In this review, which focuses on mammalian egg activation, we consider how Ca(2+) is regulated and stored at different stages of oocyte development and examine the functions of molecules that serve as both regulators of Ca(2+) release and effectors of Ca(2+) signals. We then summarize studies exploring how Ca(2+) directs downstream effectors mediating both egg activation and later signaling events required for successful preimplantation embryo development. Throughout this review, we focus attention on how localization of Ca(2+) signals influences downstream signaling events, and attempt to highlight gaps in our knowledge that are ripe for future research.
Published 2012. This article is a US government work and, as such, is in the public domain in the United States of America.