Two groups of mAbs reacting with external domains of a major sea urchin sperm membrane glycoprotein of 210 kD were isolated. Previous studies have shown that group I mAbs inhibit the acrosome reaction induced by egg jelly and also cause large increases in intracellular Ca2+ [( Ca2+]i). Group II mAbs, at comparable levels of cell surface binding, neither inhibit the egg jelly-induced acrosome reaction nor cause increases in [Ca2+]i. In this paper, we investigate the ability of these mAbs to induce the cAMP-dependent phosphorylation of sperm histone H1. Group I mAbs induce H1 phosphorylation to the same level and on the same peptide, as occurs upon treatment of sperm with egg jelly. These mAbs also activate adenylate cyclase to the same extent as egg jelly. Group II mAbs do not induce H1 phosphorylation and are only poor activators of adenylate cyclase. Group I mAbs compete with each other, but not with group II mAbs, for binding to the cell surface. These data indicate that the activation of adenylate cyclase is an initial event in the pathway leading from the binding of mAbs to a specific domain of the 210-kD protein at the cell surface, to the discrete phosphorylation of histone H1 in highly condensed sperm chromatin. The domain on the 210-kD protein recognized by group I mAbs plays a critical role in signal transduction during the early events of fertilization.

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