Structure and function of asterosaps, sperm-activating peptides from the jelly coat of starfish eggs

Zygote. 1996 Aug;4(3):237-45. doi: 10.1017/s0967199400003154.


Jelly coat of starfish eggs has the capacity to activate homologous spermatozoa and induce the acrosome reaction. We have isolated 12 sperm-activating peptides (SAPs) from the egg jelly of the starfish, Asterias amurensis. Eleven SAPs were structurally identified by sequence analysis and electro-spray ionisation mass spectrometry. All of them are glutamine-rich tetratriacontapeptides with an intramolecular disulphide linkage between Cys8 and Cys32. They are much larger than sea urchin SAPs and do not show any significant sequence similarities to known proteins. Thus we have collectively named them asterosaps. The amino terminal region, where structural diversity of asterosaps is observed, is not important for their activity, whereas the disulphide linkage is essential. Asterosaps do not induce the acrosome reaction by themselves, but are able to induce the acrosome reaction in combination with an egg jelly glycoconjugate named ARIS. Furthermore, anti-asterosap rabbit antibody significantly decreased the acrosome reaction-inducing activity of the jelly solution and the activity was restored by addition of excess asterosap. These results support our hypothesis that the main physiological role of SAPs is the induction of the acrosome reaction in cooperation with two other jelly components, ARIS and Co-ARIS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrosome / physiology*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Egg Proteins* / chemistry
  • Egg Proteins* / isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Weight
  • Peptides* / chemistry
  • Peptides* / isolation & purification
  • Peptides* / physiology
  • Sequence Analysis
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Sperm Motility
  • Sperm-Ovum Interactions / physiology*
  • Starfish / physiology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • ARIS protein, Asterias amurensis
  • Egg Proteins
  • Glycoproteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Peptides