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More than 15 years have elapsed since the identification of phospholipase C ζ1 (PLCζ) from a genomic search for mouse testis/sperm-specific PLCs. This molecule was proposed to represent the sperm factor responsible for the initiation of calcium (Ca2+ ) oscillations required for egg activation and embryo development in mammals. Supporting evidence for this role emerged from studies documenting its expression in all mammals and other vertebrate species, the physiological Ca2+ rises induced by injection of its messenger RNA into mammalian and nonmammalian eggs, and the lack of expression in infertile males that fail intracytoplasmic sperm injection. In the last year, genetic animal models have added support to its role as the long sought-after sperm factor. In this review, we highlight the findings that demonstrated the role of Ca2+ as the universal signal of egg activation and the experimental buildup that culminated with the identification of PLCζ as the soluble sperm factor. We also discuss the structural-functional properties that make PLCζ especially suited to evoke oscillations in eggs. Lastly, we examine unresolved aspects of the function and regulation of PLCζ and whether or not it is the only sperm factor in mammalian sperm.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Reprod Dev

Publication Date





4 - 19


IP3, calcium, egg activation, fertilization, infertility, mammals, oocytes, oscillations, sperm, sperm factor