Mechanisms leading to cortical reaction in the mammalian egg

Tamar Raz, Ehud Skutelsky, Dina Amihai, Ilan Hammel, Ruth Shalgi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Activation of the mammalian egg results in cortical reaction (CR), which is correlated with an increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration and PKC activation. The CR is a gradual rather then an 'all or none' response, and can be regulated by different concentrations of parthenogenetic activators. To evaluate the biological significance of parthenogenetic induced CR, rat eggs were fertilized or activated by different concentrations of ionomycin and TPA. Cortical granules (CG) were monitored by electron microscopy, while the CG exudate was visualized by Lens culinaris lectin and Texas Red, using light and confocal microscopy. The ability of the CR to trigger a full block to polyspermy was examined in an IVF system. Our study demonstrates the existence of light and dark CG, which differ by number, distribution in the egg cortex, and sensitivity to parthenogenetic activators. Sperm penetration or high concentration of activators, trigger depletion of both light and dark CG, leading to a full CR. Low concentration of activators altered the CG density, the ratio of dark/light CG, and induced partial CR that was sufficient to cause a block to polyspermy. The results imply that Ca2+ rise or PKC activation have different effects on light and dark CG. In recently fertilized or parthenogenetically activated eggs, CG exudate appeared as evenly distributed spots, whereas in more advanced stages of fertilization the exudate was scattered as patchy aggregates. This observation suggests a difference in the dispersion of CG exudate after fertilization as compared to parthenogenetic activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-303
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Reproduction and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1998


  • Calcium
  • Cortical granules
  • Exocytosis
  • Fertilization
  • Protein kinase C


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