Life and Medical Sciences
Cell & Developmental Biology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
Cumulus-free mouse eggs were placed on microscope slides and inseminated with capacitated mouse spermatozoa. Fertilization could then be observed through the phase contrast microscope and recorded by time-lapse cinematography. Following the penetration of the fertilizing spermatozoon through the zona pellucida and the fusion of the sperm head with the vitelline membrane, the entire sperm tail gradually entered the vitellus. The time required for tail incorporation into the vitellus as measured in 49 eggs varied from 3 h 3 min to 5 h 49 min, with a mean time of 4 h 23 min. When tail incorporation began, the greater part of the flagellum was still outside the zona pellucida; occasionally it slipped into the perivitelline space, but generally it remained outside the zona and shortened by degrees as incorporation proceeded. The motility of the fertilizing spermatozoon declined abruptly very soon after fusion of the sperm head with the vitellus and remained at a very low level during the 3-6 h required for tail incorporation. Sperm motility, therefore, does not appear to be the main determinant in tail incorporation and the primary mechanism responsible for it remains unclear. As the sperm tail slowly entered the vitellus, the second meiotic division was completed with concomitant extrusion of the second polar body. Key stages in second polar body formation were correlated with events in tail incorporation. Differences between fertilization in vitro and in vivo are discussed.
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