Iontophoresis of inositol 1, 4, 5-triphosphate into frog (Xenopus laevis) eggs activated early developmental events such as membrane depolarization, cortical contraction, cortical granule exocytosis, and abortive cleavage furrow formation (pseudocleavage). Inositol 1, 4-bisphosphate also triggered these events, but only at doses approximately 100-fold higher, whereas no level of fructose-1, 6-bisphosphate tested activated eggs. Using Ca2+-selective microelectrodes, we observed that activating doses of inositol 1, 4, 5-trisphosphate triggered a Ca2+ release from intracellular stores that was indistinguishable from that previously observed at fertilization (Busa, W. B., and R. Nuccitelli, 1985, J. Cell Biol., 100:1325-1329), whereas subthreshold doses triggered only a localized Ca2+ release at the site of injection. The subthreshold IP3 response could be distinguished from the major Ca2+ release at activation with respect to their dose-response characteristics, relative timing, sensitivity to external Ca2+ levels, additivity, and behavior in the activated egg, suggesting that the Xenopus egg may possess two functionally distinct Ca2+ pools mobilized by different effectors. In light of these differences, we suggest a model for intracellular Ca2+ mobilization by sperm-egg interaction.

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