Scanning electron microscope studies of sperm incorporation into the zebrafish (Brachydanio) egg

J Exp Zool. 1987 Aug;243(2):259-73. doi: 10.1002/jez.1402430211.


Morphological studies on the gametes and entry of the spermatozoan into the egg of the zebra danio, Brachydanio rerio, were conducted primarily with scanning electron microscopy. The spermatozoan showed a spherical head, which lacked an acrosome, a midpiece containing several mitochondria, and a flagellum. Observations of the unfertilized egg confirmed and extended prior studies showing a distinct cluster of microvilli on the plasma membrane, identified as the sperm entry site, beneath the inner micropylar aperture (Hart and Donovan, '83). The fertilizing spermatozoan attached to the sperm entry site within 5 seconds of the mixing of a gamete suspension. Binding to the egg microvilli appeared restricted to the equatorial surface of the spermatozoan. Fusion between the plasma membranes of the interacting gametes was followed by the formation of a distinct, nipple-shaped fertilization cone. The sperm head was partially incorporated into the fertilization cone cytoplasm by 60 seconds postinsemination. The incorporation of the entire sperm head, midpiece, and a portion of the flagellum occurred between 1 and 2 minutes. During this time, the fertilization cone shortened and was transformed into a massive, blister-like cytoplasmic swelling. Concurrently, upward movements of the ooplasm resulted in the gradual disappearance of the original depression in the egg surface containing the sperm entry site. The second polar body, fully developed by 10 minutes postinsemination, formed approximately 10-15 microns from the site of sperm penetration. Development of the fertilization cone, formation of the second polar body and exocytosis of cortical granules at the sperm entry site readily occurred in parthenogenetically activated eggs, indicating that these surface rearrangements do not require sperm binding and/or fusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyprinidae / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertilization*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Ovum / physiology*
  • Ovum / ultrastructure
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*
  • Spermatozoa / ultrastructure
  • Zebrafish / physiology*
  • Zygote / ultrastructure*