Fertilization represents the culmination of a series of complex interactions between male and female gametes. Despite advances in our understanding, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying these fundamental interactions remain largely uncharacterized. There is however growing recognition that this process requires the concerted action of multiple sperm receptors that possess affinity for complementary zona pellucida ligands and those that reside on the surface of the oolemma. Among the candidate sperm proteins that have been implicated in fertilization, those belonging to the ADAM (a disintegrin and metalloprotease) family of proteases have received considerable attention. The focus of the studies described herein has been the characterization of a closely related member of this protease family, ADAMTS10 (a disintegrin and metalloprotease with thrombospondin type 1 motifs number 10). We have demonstrated that ADAMTS10 is expressed during the later stages of mouse spermatogenesis and incorporated into the acrosomal domain of developing spermatids. During sperm maturation, the protein appears to be processed before being expressed on the surface of the peri-acrosomal region of the head. Our collective data suggest that, from this position, ADAMTS10 participates in sperm adhesion to the zona pellucida. Indeed, pre-incubation of capacitated spermatozoa with either galardin, a broad spectrum inhibitor of metalloprotease activity, or anti-ADAMTS10 antisera elicited a significant reduction in their ability to engage in zona adhesion. Overall, these studies support the notion that sperm–oocyte interactions involve considerable functional redundancy and identify ADAMTS10 as a novel candidate in the mediation of these fundamentally important events.
International Journal of Andrology Vol. 35, Issue 4, p. 572-589