Evidence has been presented that the PH-20 protein functions in sperm adhesion to the egg zona pellucida (Primakoff, P., H. Hyatt, and D. G. Myles, 1985, J. Cell Biol., 101:2239-2244). The PH-20 protein migrates from its original surface domain to a new surface domain after the acrosome reaction (Myles, D. G., and P. Primakoff, 1984, J. Cell Biol., 99:1634-1641). The acrosome reaction is an exocytotic event that results in insertion of a region of the secretory granule membrane, the inner acrosomal membrane (IAM), into the plasma membrane. After the acrosome reaction, PH-20 protein migrates to the IAM from its initial domain on the posterior head surface. We have now found a new dynamic feature of the regulation of PH-20 protein on the sperm surface; exocytosis increases the surface expression of PH-20 protein. After the acrosome reaction there is an approximately threefold increase in the number of PH-20 antigenic sites on the sperm surface. These new antigenic sites are revealed on the surface by insertion of the IAM into the plasma membrane. Our evidence indicates that before the acrosome reaction an intracellular population of PH-20 antigen is localized to the IAM. When migration of the surface population of the PH-20 protein is prevented, PH-20 protein can still be detected on the IAM of acrosome-reacted sperm. Also, PH-20 protein can be detected on the IAM of permeabilized acrosome-intact sperm by indirect immunofluorescence. Thus, the sperm cell regulates the amount of PH-20 protein on its surface by sequestering about two-thirds of the protein on an intracellular membrane and subsequently exposing this population on the cell surface by an exocytotic event. This may be a general mechanism for regulating cell surface composition where a rapid increase in the amount of a cell surface protein is required.

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