The precise mechanisms by which sperm trigger calcium transients in eggs or oocytes during fertilization remain unknown. Based on time-lapse confocal microscopy, we show that intracellular injections of porcine sperm extracts cause the oocytes of a marine nemertean worm to undergo repetitive calcium oscillations resembling those obtained during normal fertilizations. Such findings are consistent with the view that fertilization involves a soluble sperm factor (SF) which is capable of eliciting calcium transients without binding to externally situated receptors on the oocyte plasmalemma. This study also describes for the first time the wave-like propagation patterns of SF-induced calcium transients that are generated in a heterologous combination of gametes obtained from different phyla of animals. Such cross-reactivity between distantly related taxa suggests that the intracellular signaling pathways triggered by sperm factors can be well conserved.
Experimental Cell Research Vol. 257, Issue 2, p. 341-347