Prophase I oocytes, free of follicle cells, and metaphase II eggs of the amphibian Xenopus laevis were subjected to transient treatments with the protein kinase C activators, phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), phorbol 12,13-didecanoate, and 1-olyeoyl-2-acetyl-sn-glycerol. In both oocytes and eggs, these treatments triggered early events of amphibian development: cortical granule exocytosis, cortical contraction, and cleavage furrow formation. Surprisingly, activation of oocytes occurred in the absence of meiotic resumption, resulting in cells with an oocytelike nucleus and interior cytoplasm, but with a zygotelike cortex. PMA-induced activation of oocytes and eggs did not require external calcium, a prerequisite for normal activation of eggs. PMA-induced activation of eggs was inhibited by retinoic acid, a known inhibitor of protein kinase C. In addition, pretreatment of eggs with retinoic acid prevented activation by mechanical stimulation and inhibited activation by calcium ionophore A23187. The results suggest that protein kinase C activation is an integral component of the Xenopus fertilization pathway.

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