Recognition between mammalian gametes occurs when the plasma membrane of the sperm head binds to the zona pellucida (ZP), an extracellular coat surrounding eggs. ZP3, one of three glycoproteins in the ZP, is the egg protein recognized by sperm. A mouse sperm surface protein, sp56 (M(r) = 56,000), has been identified on the basis of its specific affinity for ZP3 (Bleil, J. D., and P. M. Wassarman. 1990. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 87:5563-5567). Studies presented here were designed to characterize mouse sperm sp56 and to further test whether or not this protein specifically recognizes ZP3. sp56 was purified by both ZP3 affinity chromatography and by ion exchange chromatography followed by size-exclusion chromatography. The purified native protein eluted from size-exclusion columns as a homomultimer (M(r) approximately 110,000). Each monomer of the protein contains intramolecular disulfide bonds, consistent with its extracellular location. Immunohistochemical and immunoblotting studies, using monoclonal antibodies, demonstrated that sp56 is a peripheral membrane protein located on the outer surface of the sperm head plasma membrane, precisely where sperm bind ZP3. Results of crosslinking experiments demonstrated that the ZP3 oligosaccharide recognized by sperm has specific affinity for sp56. Collectively, these results suggest that sp56 may be the sperm protein responsible for sperm-egg recognition in the mouse.

This content is only available as a PDF.