A protein located on the surface of guinea pig sperm (PH-30) has been implicated in the process of sperm-egg fusion (Primakoff, P., H. Hyatt, and J. Tredick-Kline. 1987. J. Cell Biol. 104:141-149). In this paper we have assessed basic biochemical properties of PH-30 and have analyzed the molecular forms of PH-30 present at different stages of sperm maturation. We show the following: (a) PH-30 is an integral membrane glycoprotein; (b) it is composed of two tightly associated and immunologically distinct subunits; (c) both subunits are made as larger precursors; (d) processing of the two subunits occurs at different developmental stages; (e) the final processing step occurs in the region of the epididymis where sperm become fertilization competent; (f) processing can be mimicked in vitro; (g) processing exposes at least two new epitopes on PH-30-one of the newly exposed epitopes is recognized by a fusion-inhibitory monoclonal antibody. These results are discussed in terms of the possible role of PH-30 in mediating fusion with the egg plasma membrane.

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