The biochemistry of the acrosome reaction

Haim Breitbart, Ben Spungin

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    149 Scopus citations


    The binding of the spermatozoon to the oocyte zona pellucida (ZP) occurs via specific receptors localized over the anterior head region of the spermatozoon. Zona pellucida binding stimulates the spermatozoa to undergo the acrosome reaction resulting in the release of hydrolytic enzymes and in the exposure of new membrane domains, both of which are essential for fertilization. We suggest that ZP binds to at least two different receptors in the plasma membrane. One (R) is a Gi-coupled receptor that activates phospholipase C (PLC)β1. The other (TK) is a tyrosine kinase receptor coupled to PLCγ. Binding to R would regulate adenylyl cyclase (AC) leading to elevation of cAMP and protein kinase (PKA) activation. The PKA activates a voltage-dependent Ca2+ channel in the outer acrosomal membrane which releases Ca2+ from the interior of the acrosome to the cytosol. This is the first, relatively small, rise in [Ca2+]i (I) which leads to activation of the PLCγ. The products of phosphatidyl-inositol bisphosphate (PIP2) hydrolysis by PLC diacylglycerol (DAG) and inositol-trisphosphate (IP3) will lead to PKC translocation to the plasma membrane and its activation. PKC opens a voltage-dependent Ca2+ channel (L) in the plasma membrane, leading to the second (II) higher increase in [Ca2+]i. The Gi or TK can also activate an Na+/H+ exchanger leading to alkalization of the cytosol. PKC also activates phospholipase A2 (PLA2) to generate arachidonic acid (AA) from membrane phospholipids. AA will be converted to prostaglandins (PG) and leukotriens (LT) by the enzymes cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX) respectively. The increase in [Ca2+]i and pH leads to membrane fusion and acrosomal exocytosis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)195-202
    Number of pages8
    JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Mar 1997


    • Acrosome reaction
    • Hydrolytic enzymes
    • Intracellular calcium concentration
    • Membrane domains
    • Plasma membrane receptors


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