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Volume 13, Issue 1 (January 2011) 13, 81–87; 10.1038/aja.2010.70

The mechanism of sperm–egg interaction and the involvement of IZUMO1 in fusion

Naokazu Inoue, Masahito Ikawa and Masaru Okabe

Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, Yamadaoka 3-1, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan

Correspondence: Dr M Okabe, (okabe@gen-info.osaka-u.ac.jp)


An average human ejaculate contains over 100 million sperm, but only a few succeed in accomplishing the journey to an egg by migration through the female reproductive tract. Among these few sperm, only one participates in fertilization. There might be an ingenious molecular mechanism to ensure that the very best sperm fertilize an egg. However, recent gene disruption experiments in mice have revealed that many factors previously described as important for fertilization are largely dispensable. One could argue that the fertilization mechanism is made robust against gene disruptions. However, this is not likely, as there are already six different gene-disrupted mouse lines (Calmegin, Adam1a, Adam2, Adam3, Ace and Pgap1), all of which result in male sterility. The sperm from these animals are known to have defective zona-binding ability and at the same time lose oviduct-migrating ability. Concerning sperm–zona binding, the widely accepted involvement of sugar moiety on zona pellucida 3 (ZP3) is indicated to be dispensable by gene disruption experiments. Thus, the landscape of the mechanism of fertilization is revolving considerably. In the sperm–egg fusion process, CD9 on egg and IZUMO1 on sperm have emerged as essential factors. This review focuses on the mechanism of fertilization elucidated by gene-manipulated animals.

Keywords: egg; fusion; gene-manipulation; interaction; IZUMO1; sperm; zona pellucida

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