Prolonged mating in prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) increases likelihood of ovulation and embryo number.
Prairie voles are induced ovulators that mate frequently in brief bouts over a period of approximately 24 h. We examined 1) impact of mating duration on ovulation and embryo number, 2) incidence of fertilization, 3) temporal pattern of embryo development, 4) embryo progression through the reproductive tract over time, and 5) embryo development in culture. Mating was videotaped to determine first copulation, and the ovaries were examined and the reproductive tracts flushed at 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, and 24 h and 2, 3, and 4 days after first copulation. The number of mature follicles and fresh corpora lutea and the number and developmental stage of embryos were quantified. One, two-, and four-cell embryos were cultured in Whitten's medium. Mature follicles were present at the earliest time examined (6 h). Thirty-eight percent of females that had been paired for < 12 h after the first copulation ovulated, whereas all females paired >/= 12 h after the first copulation ovulated. Virtually all (> 99%) oocytes recovered from females paired for >/= 12 h after first copulation were fertilized. Pairing time after first copulation and mean copulation-bout duration were significant (p < 0.05) determinants of embryo number. Embryos entered the uterine horns and implanted on Days 3 and 4, respectively, after first copulation (Day 0). Embryos cultured in vitro underwent approximately one cell division per day, a rate similar to that in vivo. We conclude that prairie voles ovulate reliably after pairing for >/= 12 h, although some females showed exceptional sensitivity not predicted by the variables quantified. Prolonged mating for longer than 12 h increased the total embryos produced. This mechanism likely has adaptive significance for increasing offspring number. (+info)
Male gametic cell-specific gene expression in flowering plants.
The role of the male gamete-the sperm cell-in the process of fertilization is to recognize, adhere to, and fuse with the female gamete. These highly specialized functions are expected to be controlled by activation of a unique set of genes. However, male gametic cells traditionally have been regarded as transcriptionally quiescent because of highly condensed chromatin and a very reduced amount of cytoplasm. Here, we provide evidence for male gamete-specific gene expression in flowering plants. We identified and characterized a gene, LGC1, which was shown to be expressed exclusively in the male gametic cells. The gene product of LGC1 was localized at the surface of male gametic cells, suggesting a possible role in sperm-egg interactions. These findings represent an important step toward defining the molecular mechanisms of male gamete development and the cellular processes involved in fertilization of flowering plants. (+info)
Treatment of mouse oocytes with PI-PLC releases 70-kDa (pI 5) and 35- to 45-kDa (pI 5.5) protein clusters from the egg surface and inhibits sperm-oolemma binding and fusion.
The effect of phosphatidyinositol-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) on mouse sperm-egg interaction was investigated in this study to determine if glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins are involved in mammalian fertilization. When both sperm and zona-intact oocytes were pretreated with a highly purified preparation of PI-PLC and coincubated, there was no significant effect on sperm-zona pellucida binding; however, fertilization was reduced from 59.6% (control group) to 2.8% (treatment group). A similar reduction in fertilization rates was found when zona-intact oocytes were treated with PI-PLC and washed prior to incubation with untreated sperm. The effect of PI-PLC on sperm binding and fusion with zona-free oocytes was then investigated. Treatment of sperm with PI-PLC had no significant effect on sperm-egg binding or fusion. However, treatment of eggs with PI-PLC significantly reduced sperm-egg binding and fusion from 6.2 bound and 2.1 fused sperm per egg in the control group to 2.1 bound and 0.02 fused sperm per egg in the treatment group. This decrease in sperm-egg binding and fusion depended on the dose of PI-PLC employed, with a maximal inhibitory effect on binding and fusion at 5 and 1 U/ml, respectively. PI-PLC-treated oocytes could be artificially activated by calcium ionophore, demonstrating that the oocytes were functionally viable following treatment. Furthermore, treatment of oocytes with PI-PLC did not reduce the immunoreactivity of the non-GPI-anchored egg surface integrin, alpha6beta1. Taken together, these observations support the hypothesis that PI-PLC affects fertilization by specifically releasing GPI-anchored proteins from the oolemma. In order to identify the oolemmal GPI-anchored proteins involved in fertilization, egg surface proteins were labeled with sulfo-NHS biotin, treated with PI-PLC, and analyzed by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis followed by avidin blotting. A prominent high-molecular-weight protein cluster (approximately 70 kDa, pI 5) and a lower molecular weight (approximately 35-45 kDa, pI 5.5) protein cluster were released from the oolemmal surface as a result of PI-PLC treatment. It is likely that these GPI-anchored egg surface proteins are required for sperm-egg binding and fusion. (+info)
Mutations in FIE, a WD polycomb group gene, allow endosperm development without fertilization.
A fundamental problem in biology is to understand how fertilization initiates reproductive development. Higher plant reproduction is unique because two fertilization events are required for sexual reproduction. First, a sperm must fuse with the egg to form an embryo. A second sperm must then fuse with the adjacent central cell nucleus that replicates to form an endosperm, which is the support tissue required for embryo and/or seedling development. Here, we report cloning of the Arabidopsis FERTILIZATION-INDEPENDENT ENDOSPERM (FIE) gene. The FIE protein is a homolog of the WD motif-containing Polycomb proteins from Drosophila and mammals. These proteins function as repressors of homeotic genes. A female gametophyte with a loss-of-function allele of fie undergoes replication of the central cell nucleus and initiates endosperm development without fertilization. These results suggest that the FIE Polycomb protein functions to suppress a critical aspect of early plant reproduction, namely, endosperm development, until fertilization occurs. (+info)
Activation of Xenopus eggs by proteases: possible involvement of a sperm protease in fertilization.
Egg activation in cross-fertilization between Xenopus eggs and Cynops sperm may be caused by a protease activity against Boc-Gly-Arg-Arg-MCA in the sperm acrosome. To determine the role of the sperm protease in fertilization, the protease was purified from Cynops sperm using several chromatographic techniques. We found that purified sperm protease readily hydrolyzes Boc-Gly-Arg-Arg-MCA and Z-Arg-Arg-MCA, that protease activity was inhibited by the trypsin inhibitors aprotinin and leupeptin, and that not only the purified protease, but also cathepsin B, induces activation in Xenopus eggs. We inseminated unfertilized Xenopus eggs with homologous sperm in the presence of various peptidyl MCA substrates or protease inhibitors and demonstrated that trypsin inhibitors or MCA substrates containing Arg-Arg-MCA reversibly inhibited fertilization of both fully jellied and denuded eggs. Sperm motility was not affected by the reagents. An extract obtained from Xenopus sperm showed hydrolytic activity against Boc-Gly-Arg-Arg-MCA, Z-Arg-Arg-MCA, and Arg-MCA. These results suggest that the tryptic protease in Xenopus sperm is involved in fertilization, most likely by participating in egg activation. (+info)
Evidence that a starfish egg Src family tyrosine kinase associates with PLC-gamma1 SH2 domains at fertilization.
The initiation of calcium release at fertilization in the eggs of most animals relies on the production of IP3, implicating the activation of phospholipase C. Recent work has demonstrated that injection of PLC-gamma SH2 domain fusion proteins into starfish eggs specifically inhibits the initiation of calcium release in response to sperm, indicating that PLC-gamma is necessary for Ca2+ release at fertilization [Carroll et al. (1997) J. Cell Biol. 138, 1303-1311]. Here we investigate how PLC-gamma may be activated, by using the PLC-gamma SH2 domain fusion protein as an affinity matrix to identify interacting proteins. A tyrosine kinase activity and an egg protein of ca. Mr 58 K that is recognized by an antibody directed against Src family tyrosine kinases associate with PLC-gamma SH2 domains in a fertilization-dependent manner. These associations are detected by 15 s postfertilization, consistent with a function in releasing Ca2+. Calcium ionophore treatment of eggs did not cause association of the kinase activity or of the Src family protein with the PLC-gamma SH2 domains. These data identify an egg Src family tyrosine kinase as a potential upstream regulator of PLC-gamma in the activation of starfish eggs. (+info)
Na+/H+ antiporter activity in hamster embryos is activated during fertilization.
This study characterized the activation of the regulatory activity of the Na+/H+ antiporter during fertilization of hamster embryos. Hamster oocytes appeared to lack any mechanism for the regulation of intracellular pH in the acid range. Similarly, no Na+/H+ antiporter activity could be detected in embryos that were collected from the reproductive tract between 1 and 5 h post-egg activation (PEA). Activity of the Na+/H+ antiporter was first detected in embryos collected at 5.5 h PEA and gradually increased to reach maximal activity in embryos collected at 7 h PEA. Parthenogenetically activated one-cell and two-cell embryos demonstrate Na+/H+ antiporter activity, indicating that antiporter activity is maternally derived and initiated by activation of the egg. The inability of cycloheximide, colchicine, or cytochalasin D to affect initiation of antiporter activity indicates that antiporter appearance is not dependent on the synthesis of new protein or recruitment of existing protein to the cell membrane. In contrast, incubation of one-cell embryos with sphingosine did inhibit the appearance of Na+/H+ antiporter activity, showing that inhibition of normal protein kinase C activity is detrimental to antiporter function. Furthermore, incubation of oocytes with a phorbol ester which stimulates protein kinase C activity induced Na+/H+ antiporter activity in oocytes in which the activity was previously absent. Incubation with an intracellular calcium chelator also reduced the appearance of antiporter activity. Taken together, these data indicate that the appearance of Na+/H+ antiporter activity following egg activation may be due, at least in part, to regulation by protein kinase C and intracellular calcium levels. (+info)
Nucleo-cytoplasmic interactions that control nuclear envelope breakdown and entry into mitosis in the sea urchin zygote.
In sea urchin zygotes and mammalian cells nuclear envelope breakdown (NEB) is not driven simply by a rise in cytoplasmic cyclin dependent kinase 1-cyclin B (Cdk1-B) activity; the checkpoint monitoring DNA synthesis can prevent NEB in the face of mitotic levels of Cdk1-B. Using sea urchin zygotes we investigated whether this checkpoint prevents NEB by restricting import of regulatory proteins into the nucleus. We find that cyclin B1-GFP accumulates in nuclei that cannot complete DNA synthesis and do not break down. Thus, this checkpoint limits NEB downstream of both the cytoplasmic activation and nuclear accumulation of Cdk1-B1. In separate experiments we fertilize sea urchin eggs with sperm whose DNA has been covalently cross-linked to inhibit replication. When the pronuclei fuse, the resulting zygote nucleus does not break down for >180 minutes (equivalent to three cell cycles), even though Cdk1-B activity rises to greater than mitotic levels. If pronuclear fusion is prevented, then the female pronucleus breaks down at the normal time (average 68 minutes) and the male pronucleus with cross-linked DNA breaks down 16 minutes later. This male pronucleus has a functional checkpoint because it does not break down for >120 minutes if the female pronucleus is removed just prior to NEB. These results reveal the existence of an activity released by the female pronucleus upon its breakdown, that overrides the checkpoint in the male pronucleus and induces NEB. Microinjecting wheat germ agglutinin into binucleate zygotes reveals that this activity involves molecules that must be actively translocated into the male pronucleus. (+info)