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Abstract

The spermatozoa of most invertebrates (e.g., sea urchins) and nonmammalian vertebrates (e.g., fishes and amphibians) have full capacity to fertilize eggs upon leaving the testis. Testicular spermatozoa of mammals, on the other hand, do not possess the ability to do so. Their fertilizing capacity develops as they pass through the epididymis (Young, 1931; Nishikawa and Waide, 1952; Blandau and Rumery, 1964; Bedford, 1966; Orgebin-Crist, 1967). This process, apparently “unique” to mammals, is referred to as the epididymal maturation of spermatozoa. Even after their maturation, however, spermatozoa require an additional phase of maturation or capacitation within the female genital tract before they are able to fertilize eggs (Austin, 1951, 1952; Chang, 1951a). Thus, epididymal maturation and capacitation are two extra steps that mammaliam spermatozoa must take before they can effect fertilization. In this chapter, I will discuss how mammalian spermatozoa prepare themselves for fertilization and how the spermatozoa and eggs interact during fertilization. The process and mechanisms of sperm transport in the female genital tract will not be dealt with extensively here. Readers are referred to Bishop (1961, 1969), Blandau (1969), Bedford (1970b, 1972b), Thibault (1972, 1973a), Zamboni (1972), Blandau and Gaddum-Rosse (1974), Hafez and Thibault (1975), Overstreet and Katz (1977), Overstreet and Cooper (1978, 1979b), Overstreet et al. (1978), Shalgi and Kraicer(1978), Cooper et al. (1979) and Hunter (1975, 1980). The rejection or elimination of extra spermatozoa by the fertilized egg, one of the most fascinating events in fertilization, will not be discussed here. Instead, readers are referred to the chapter by Dr. Wolf in this volume. The physiology of egg activation has been described and discussed to some extent by Gwatkin (1977) and Yanagimachi (1978a). There are numerous reviews dealing with general aspects of mammalian fertilization. The following are recommended to aid in grasping the outline of mammalian fertilization: Austin and Bishop (1957), Austin and Walton (1960), Austin (1961, 1968), Blandau (1961), Pikó (1969), Thibault (1969), Bedford (1970a,b, 1972b), Gwatkin (1976, 1977), Yanagimachi (1977, 1978a), Bedford and Cooper (1978) and Hunter (1980).

Keywords

Seminal Plasma Zona Pellucida Acrosome Reaction Sperm Head Sperm Nucleus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Yanagimachi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Reproductive BiologyUniversity of Hawaii School of MedicineHonoluluUSA

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