During fertilization, the spermatozoon penetrates through the cumulus cells and the zona pellucida that surrounds the oocyte, before it binds and fuses with the oocyte plasma membrane to induce activation. In vitro fertilization (IVF) studies performed in non-human mammals have contributed extensive knowledge regarding the mechanisms by which the spermatozoon activates the meiotic-arrested oocyte to resume meiosis, cleave and develop into an embryo. Although IVF has been used extensively for treating subfertile couples, not all of them were able to benefit from this procedure. In intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), one viable spermatozoon only is sufficient for successful fertilization of a single oocyte. Moreover, the injected fertilizing spermatozoon bypasses several physiological barriers, compared with IVF, which together could explain the high success rate for this procedure. ICSI has also allowed the identification of sperm components that are required for successful fertilization.