Sperm entry site
Life and Medical Sciences
Cell & Developmental Biology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
The sperm entry site (SES) of zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio) eggs was studied before and during fertilization by fluorescence, scanning, and transmission electron microscopy. Rhodamine phalloidin (RhPh), used to detect polymerized filamentous actin, was localized to microvilli of the SES and to cytoplasm subjacent to the plasma membrane in the unfertilized egg. The distribution of RhPh staining at the SES correlated with the ultrastructural localization of a submembranous electrondense layer of cortical cytoplasm approximately 500 nm thick and containing 5- to 6-nm filaments. Actin, therefore, was organized at the SES as a tightly knit meshwork of filaments prior to fertilization. Contact between the fertilizing sperm and the filamentous actin network was observed by 15-20 sec postinsemination or just before the onset of fertilization cone formation. Growing fertilization cones of either artificially activated or inseminated eggs exhibited intense RhPh staining and substantial increase in thickness of the actin meshwork. Collectively, TEM and RhPh fluorescence images of inseminated eggs demonstrated that the submembranous actin became rearranged in fertilization cones to form a thickened meshwork around the sperm nucleus during incorporation. The results reported here suggest that activation of the egg triggers a dramatic polymerization of actin beneath the plasma membrane of the fertilization cone. Furthermore, the actin involved in sperm incorporation is sensitive to the action of cytochalasins.
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