In many animals, a rise in intracellular calcium levels is the trigger for egg activation, the process by which an arrested mature oocyte transitions to prepare for embryogenesis. In nearly all animals studied to date, this calcium rise, and thus egg activation, is triggered by the fertilizing sperm. However in the insects that have been examined, fertilization is not necessary to activate their oocytes. Rather, these insects' eggs activate as they transit through the female's reproductive tract, regardless of male contribution. Recent studies in Drosophila have shown that egg activation nevertheless requires calcium and that the downstream events and molecules of egg activation are also conserved, despite the difference in initial trigger. Genetic studies have uncovered essential roles for the calcium-dependent enzyme calcineurin and its regulator calcipressin, and have hinted at roles for calmodulin, in Drosophila egg activation. Physiological and in vitro studies have led to a model in which mechanical forces that impact the Drosophila oocyte as it moves through the reproductive tract triggers the influx of calcium from the external environment, thereby initiating egg activation. Future research will aim to test this model, as well as to determine the spatiotemporal dynamics of cytoplasmic calcium flux and mode of signal propagation in this unique system.
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