The Mammalian Egg’s Block to Polyspermy

  • Don P. Wolf


The eggs of most mammals at ovulation are metabolically relatively inert cells arrested in metaphase II of meiosis. In response to an activation stimulus normally provided by the fertilizing sperm but induced artificially by a number of parthenogenetic agents, the egg resumes meiosis, undergoes a cortical reaction, and becomes metabolically more active. Visible evidence for the resumption of meiosis involves the abstriction of a second polar body at approximately 30 min postactivation. In the cortical reaction, the egg undergoes the exocytotic release of its cortical granules, a process that results in formation of a new mosaic plasma membrane from the fusion of limiting cortical granule membranes with the egg plasma membrane. At the same time, cortical granule contents released into the perivitelline space come in contact with the egg plasma membrane and the zona pellucida. The cortical reaction and granule exocytosis are of primary interest to any discussion of polyspermy for cortical granule contents have been associated with polyspermy-preventing mechanisms in the eggs of animals of diverse species (for review, see Schuel, 1978, or Gulyas, 1980).


Zona Pellucida Cortical Granule Perivitelline Space Zona Hardening Cortical Reaction 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Don P. Wolf
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Reproductive Biology, Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Biochemistry and BiophysicsUniversity of Pennsylvania School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA

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