Gamete recognition in the mouse is mediated by galactosyltransferase (GalTase) on the sperm surface, which binds to its appropriate glycoside substrate in the egg zona pellucida (Lopez, L. C., E. M. Bayna, D. Litoff, N. L. Shaper, J. H. Shaper, and B. D. Shur, 1985, J. Cell Biol., 101:1501-1510). GalTase has been localized by indirect immunofluorescence to the dorsal surface of the anterior sperm head overlying the intact acrosome. Sperm binding to the zona pellucida triggers induction of the acrosome reaction, an exocytotic event that results in vesiculation and release of the outer acrosomal and overlying plasma membranes. Consequently, we examined the fate of sperm surface GalTase after the acrosome reaction. Contrary to our expectations, surface GalTase is not lost during the acrosome reaction despite the loss of its membrane domain. Rather, double-label indirect immunofluorescence assays show that GalTase is redistributed to the lateral surface of the sperm, coincident with the acrosome reaction. This apparent redistribution of GalTase was confirmed by direct enzymatic assays, which show that 90% of sperm GalTase activity is retained during the acrosome reaction. No GalTase activity is detectable on plasma membrane vesicles released during the acrosome reaction. In contrast, removal of plasma membranes by nitrogen cavitation releases GalTase activity from the sperm surface, showing that GalTase redistribution requires a physiological acrosome reaction. The selective redistribution of GalTase to a new membrane domain from one that is lost during the acrosome reaction suggests that GalTase is repositioned for some additional function after initial sperm-zona binding.

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