• Matthew R. Marcello
  • Gunasekaran Singaravelu
  • Andrew Singson
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (volume 757)


Fertilization—the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism—is the culmination of a multitude of intricately regulated cellular processes. In Caenorhabditis elegans, fertilization is highly efficient. Sperm become fertilization competent after undergoing a maturation process during which they become motile, and the plasma membrane protein composition is reorganized in preparation for interaction with the oocyte. The highly specialized gametes begin their interactions by signaling to one another to ensure that fertilization occurs when they meet. The oocyte releases prostaglandin signals to help guide the sperm to the site of fertilization, and sperm secrete a protein called major sperm protein (MSP) to trigger oocyte maturation and ovulation. Upon meeting one another in the spermatheca, the sperm and oocyte fuse in a specific and tightly regulated process. Recent studies are providing new insights into the molecular basis of this fusion process. After fertilization, the oocyte must quickly transition from the relative quiescence of oogenesis to a phase of rapid development during the cleavage divisions of early embryogenesis. In addition, the fertilized oocyte must prevent other sperm from fusing with it as well as produce an eggshell for protection during external development. This chapter will review the nature and regulation of the various cellular processes of fertilization, including the development of fertilization competence, gamete signaling, sperm–oocyte fusion, the oocyte to embryo transition, and production of an eggshell to protect the developing embryo.


Fertilization Oocyte-to-embryo transition Egg activation Spermiogenesis Sperm activation Eggshell Polyspermy Sperm migration PUFA-derived signals Major sperm protein (MSP) 



We thank the anonymous reviewers and Drs. Tim Schedl, Diane Shakes, and David Greenstein for their helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank the members of the Singson laboratory, Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello, and Dr. Sara K. Olson for critical comments and editorial assistance. This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to AS [R01HD054681-06]. MRM is a UMDNJ-RWJMS IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow supported by NIH Grant GM093854.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew R. Marcello
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gunasekaran Singaravelu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andrew Singson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Waksman InstitutePiscatawayUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeneticsRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA
  3. 3.Department of Molecular Genetics, Microbiology and ImmunologyUMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolPiscatawayUSA

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