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Cell cycle-dependent repetitive Ca2+ waves induced by a cytosolic sperm extract in mature ascidian eggs mimic those observed at fertilization

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alexander McDougall, Dr Mark Levasseur, Professor Keith Jones


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Sperm-triggered Ca2+ oscillations occur throughout the animal kingdom. The mechanism sperm use to trigger Ca2+ oscillations at fertilization has not been resolved in any egg. The temporal, spatial and regulatory characteristics of the Ca2+ oscillations during fertilization in ascidians offer a unique advantage over other systems for determining the mechanism of fertilization. For example, sperm trigger two phases of Ca2+ oscillations that are all waves in ascidians. The first of these Ca2+ waves begins at the point of sperm-egg fusion while a second phase of Ca2+ waves originates at a vegetal protrusion termed the contraction pole. In addition, cyclin B1-dependent kinase activity provides a form of positive feedback, maintaining the second phase of Ca2+ waves during meiosis and thereby ensuring meiotic exit. We therefore prepared cytosolic ascidian sperm extracts or MonoQ-fractionated ascidian sperm extracts from this urochordate to investigate if a Ca2+-releasing sperm-borne factor was responsible for egg activation. Spatially, ascidian sperm extract induced repetitive Ca2+ waves that mimicked the spatial pattern displayed during fertilization: all the second-phase Ca2+ waves originated at a vegetal protrusion termed the contraction pole (thus mimicking fertilisation). We also demonstrated that ascidian sperm extract-induced Ca2+ oscillations were maintained when CDK activity was elevated and MAP kinase activity was low, as found previously for sperm-triggered Ca2+ oscillations. As would be predicted, large doses of ascidian sperm extract injected into prophase-stage oocytes, lacking CDK activity, failed to induce any Ca2+ release even though they responded to microinjection of the Ca2+-releasing second messenger inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate. Finally, since the Ca2+-releasing activity from Mono-Q fractionated ascidian sperm extract eluted predominantly as one fraction, this may imply that one factor is responsible for the Ca2+-releasing activity. These data support a model of egg activation whereby the sperm introduces a Ca2+-releasing cytosolic factor into the egg. We demonstrated that ascidian sperm contain a protein factor(s) that is regulated by the egg CDK activity and can trigger all the Ca2+ waves observed at fertilization with a spatial pattern that mimics those initiated by sperm.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jones KT; McDougall A; Levasseur M; O'Sullivan AJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Cell Science

Year: 2000

Volume: 113

Issue: 19

Pages: 3453-3462

ISSN (print): 0021-9533

ISSN (electronic): 1477-9137

Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd.


PubMed id: 10984436