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At fertilisation in mammals the sperm initiates a series of Ca2+ oscillations that activate development. One theory of signalling at fertilisation suggests that the sperm contains a soluble protein factor that causes these Ca2+ oscillations by entering the egg after sperm-egg membrane fusion. This theory is supported by the finding that, in some species, injection of sperm protein extracts into eggs triggers a pattern of Ca2+ oscillations similar to those seen at fertilisation. So far, all the direct evidence for a sperm factor has been based upon the injection of soluble proteins from mature sperm. Here, we demonstrate that injection of mRNA extracted from hamster spermatogenic cells also leads to generation of prolonged Ca2+ oscillations in mouse eggs. The ability of spermatogenic cell mRNA to induce Ca2+ oscillations is dependent upon translation into protein and also appears to be specific to spermatogenic cells since injection of mRNA isolated from somatic tissues into eggs was ineffective. These data support the hypothesis that sperm contain a soluble, cytosolic protein factor that induces Ca2+ oscillations in eggs at fertilisation. These data are discussed in the light of our recent findings that suggest that the sperm factor possesses a phospholipase C activity.


Journal article


Biol Cell

Publication Date





267 - 275


Animals, Calcium, Cricetinae, Female, Gene Expression, Male, Mammals, Mice, Microinjections, Ovum, Proteins, RNA, Messenger, Solubility, Sperm-Ovum Interactions, Spermatogenesis, Spermatozoa, Zygote