The possibility that the surface of the egg of the sea urchin Arbacia punctulata contains a species-specific receptor for sperm has been investigated. The extent of fertilization of eggs of A. punctulata, which is proportional to the number of sperm, is unaffected by the presence of either eggs or membranes prepared from eggs of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. In marked contrast, membranes prepared from eggs of A. punctulata quantitatively inhibit fertilization of A. punctulata eggs by A. punctulata sperm. Several lines of evidence indicate that this inhibition is due to the presence of a membrane-associated glycoprotein that binds to the sperm, thus preventing them from interacting with receptor on the surface of the eggs. First, eggs treated with trypsin are incapable of being fertilized, although they can be activated with the Ca2+ ionophore A23187. Moreover, membranes prepared from eggs pretreated with trypsin do not inhibit fertilization of eggs. Second, receptor isolated in soluble form from surface membranes binds to sperm and thus prevents them from fertilizing eggs; the inhibition by soluble receptor is species-specific. Third, the soluble receptor binds to concanavalin A-Sepharose. Fourth, eggs are incapable of being fertilized if they are pretreated with concanavalin A. The specificity of inhibition, and the affect of trypsin and concanavalin A on intact eggs, suggest that the receptor is a species-specific macromolecule located on the surface of the eggs. The sensitivity of the receptor to trypsin, and its ability to bind to concanavalin A, indicate that it is a glycoprotein.

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