Int. J. Dev. Biol. 52: 717 - 736 (2008)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072536et
© UPV/EHU Press

Glycobiology of fertilization in the pig

Edda Töpfer-Petersen*, Mahnaz Ekhlasi-Hundrieser and Miroslava Tsolova

Department of Reproductive Biology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany

ABSTRACT By adopting internal fertilization, the meeting of both gametes - the sperm and the egg - and thus the highly coordinated sequence of interactions leading to fertilization, occur in the female reproductive tract. In mammals, the oviduct has been shown to translate the requirements of the female, coordinating sperm activation (capacitation) and sperm transport with the arrival of the ovulated egg. A hierarchy of carbohydrate-based interactions accompanies these events ranging from the binding of uncapacitated sperm to the oviductal epithelium (establishment of the female sperm reservoir), to the primary and secondary binding processes contributing to gamete recognition and sperm penetration of the oocyte zona pellucida. The current perspective will focus on the carbohydrate-recognition systems in the binding events during fertilization in the pig. The roles of the major carbohydrate-binding proteins, the spermadhesins and the acrosomal serine proteinase, pro/acrosin are discussed under consideration of recent structural data. The glycans and the glycoproteins of the porcine oviduct with a focus on the candidate sperm receptors as well as the zona pellucida N-glycans of prepuberal pigs have been characterized by a mass spectrometric approach. Furthermore, some preliminary data supporting the hypothesis that the zona pellucida has to undergo a maturation process during oocyte development are presented.

Keywords:

gamete interaction, spermadhesin, acrosin, zona pellucida, glycoprotein, glycan

*Corresponding author e-mail: edda.toepfer-petersen@tiho-hannover.de