When Pisaster, Asterias, or Thyone sperm are treated with the ionophore A23187 or X537A, an acrosomal reaction similar but not identical to a normal acrosomal reaction is induced in all the sperm. Based upon the response of the sperm, the acrosomal reaction consists of a series of temporally related steps. These include the fusion of the acrosomal vacuole with the cell surface, the polymerization of the actin, the alignment of the actin filaments, an increase in volume, an increase in the limiting membrane, and changes in the shape of the nucleus. In this report, we have concentrated on the first two steps in this sequence. Although fusion of the acrosomal vacuole with the cell surface requires Ca++, we found that the polymerization of actin instead appears to be dependent upon an increase in intracellular pH. This conclusion was reached by applying to sperm A23187, X537A, or nigericin, ionophores which all carry H+ at high affinity, yet vary in their affinity for other cations. When sperm are suspended in isotonic NaCl, isotonic KCl, calcium-free seawater, or seawater, all at pH 8.0, and the ionophore is added, the actin polymerizes explosively and an efflux of H+ from the cell occurs. However, if the pH, of the external medium is maintained at 6.5, the presumed intracellular pH, no effect is observed. And, finally, if egg jelly is added to sperm (the natural stimulus for the acrosomal reaction) at pH 8.0, H+ is also released. On the basis of these observations and those presented in earlier papers in this series, we conclude that a rise in intracellular pH induces the actin to disassociate from its binding proteins. Now it can polymerize.

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