Int. J. Dev. Biol. 52: 561 - 570 (2008)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072523ds
© UPV/EHU Press

Regionalized calcium signaling in zebrafish fertilization

Dipika Sharma and William H. Kinsey*

Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, USA

ABSTRACT Fertilization involves an initial, highly localized signal delivered by the sperm, which becomes amplified by a signal transduction cascade to impact the entire oocyte cytoplasm. The zebrafish oocyte presents a unique opportunity to study this process since fertilization always occurs at the micropyle, allowing the investigator to image the earliest steps in the oocyte activation process. The objective of the present study was to characterize the amplification of the sperm-induced calcium transient in the zebrafish oocyte and test the role of Fyn kinase in this process. Confocal fluorescence microscopy revealed that the sperm-induced calcium transient was composed of two elements, one of which was unique to the oocyte cortex and a second, slower transient that occurred in the central cytoplasm of the oocyte. The cortical transient was initiated immediately deep to the micropyle, became amplified at the animal pole, and progressed peripherally through the oocyte cortex. This was followed by a slower transient that occurred in the central cytoplasm of the oocyte. Several lines of evidence indicate that calcium release in these two compartments may be regulated differently. The calcium transient in the oocyte cortex is highly sensitive to inhibition by Fyn-SH2 domain containing fusion proteins, while the central cytoplasmic transient is relatively resistant to this treatment. Oocytes stimulated by injection of a soluble extract prepared from zebrafish sperm respond only with a cortical calcium transient initiated at the micropyle, while oocytes stimulated parthenogenetically by hypotonic shock exhibit a defective cortical transient but a normal transient in the central cytoplasm. Analysis of the subcellular distribution of Fyn kinase and the IP3 receptor reveal that these important signaling components are highly enriched in the oocyte cortex, a factor which may facilitate a faster propagation of the calcium transient in this compartment. In summary, analysis of calcium signaling in the zebrafish oocyte requires attention to morphologically distinct compartments of the oocyte and it is likely that these compartments are controlled by different biochemical events.


fertilization, oocyte, calcium, Fyn, protein kinase, IP3

*Corresponding author e-mail: