During the course of sperm-egg interaction in mice, zona pellucida glycoprotein ZP3 (approximately equal to 80 kDa) serves as both receptor for sperm (J. D. Bleil and P. M. Wassarman, 1980c, Cell 20, 873-882) and inducer of the acrosome reaction (J. D. Bleil and P. M. Wassarman, 1983, Dev. Biol. 95, 317-324). In this investigation, small ZP3 glycopeptides (approximately equal to 1.5-6 kDa), obtained by extensive digestion of the purified glycoprotein with insoluble Pronase, were assayed for both sperm receptor and acrosome reaction-inducing activities. While ZP3 glycopeptides were virtually as effective as intact ZP3 in inhibiting binding of sperm to eggs in vitro ("receptor activity"), unlike intact ZP3, they failed to induce sperm to undergo the acrosome reaction. The latter was determined by indirect immunofluorescence using a monoclonal antibody directed against the acrosomal cap region of sperm. These results suggest that the sperm receptor activity of ZP3 is dependent only on its carbohydrate components, whereas acrosome reaction-inducing activity is dependent on the polypeptide chain of ZP3 as well.