Molecular basis of fertilization

Three distinct membrane fusion events needs to take place for successful fertilization in mammals. The first event is a unique multi point membrane fusion event taking place at the sperm head between the sperm acrosome, a single large exocytic vesicle overlying the anterior sperm nucleus, and the sperm plasma membrane. The second fusion event, commonly refer to as fertilization fusion, is a cell-cell fusion event of sperm and oocyte plasma membranes to deliver the genetic material. Following the fertilization fusion and to block entry of more sperms, oocyte secrets the content of cortical granules by means of fusion of cortical vesicles with the oocyte plasma membrane, the third membrane fusion event.

We use electron cryo microscopy (CryoEM) and electron cryo tomography (cryoET) to visualise membrane fusion in-situ. 

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Further reading:

  1. Leung M. R., Roelofs M. C., Ravi, R. T., Maitan P., Zhang M., Henning H., Bromfield E.G., Howes S. C., Gadella B. M., Bloomfield-gadêlha H., Zeev-ben-mordehai T. The multi-scale architecture of mammalian sperm flagella and implications for ciliary motility. 2020. BioRxiv. external link

  2. Ravi R. T., M. R. Leung, T. Zeev-Ben-Mordehai. Looking back and looking forward: contributions of electron microscopy to the structural cell biology of gametes and fertilisation. 2020. Open Biol. 10:200186.