Sperm-oocyte interactions are among the most remarkable processes in cell biology. These cellular recognition events are initiated by an exquisitely specific adhesion of free-swimming spermatozoa to the zona pellucida, an acellular matrix that surrounds the ovulated oocyte. Decades of research focusing on this interaction have led to the establishment of a widely held paradigm that the zona pellucida receptor is a single molecular entity that is constitutively expressed on the sperm cell surface. In contrast, we have employed the techniques of blue native-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, far Western blotting, and proximity ligation to secure the first direct evidence in support of a novel hypothesis that zona binding is mediated by multimeric sperm receptor complex(es). Furthermore, we show that one such multimeric association, comprising the chaperonin-containing TCP1 complex (CCT/TRiC) and a zona-binding protein, zona pellucida-binding protein 2, is present on the surface of capacitated spermatozoa and could account for the zona binding activity of these cells. Collectively, these data provide an important biochemical insight into the molecular basis of sperm-zona pellucida interaction and a plausible explanation for how spermatozoa gain their ability to fertilize.
Journal of Biological Chemistry Vol. 286, Issue 42, p. 36875-36887