Int. J. Dev. Biol. 52: 737 - 742 (2008)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072538dc
© UPV/EHU Press

Participation of cysteine-rich secretory proteins (CRISP) in mammalian sperm-egg interaction

Débora J. Cohen, Dolores Busso, Vanina Da Ros, Diego A. Ellerman, Julieta A. Maldera, Nadia Goldweic and Patricia S. Cuasnicu*

Instituto de Biología y Medicina Experimental (IBYME-CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina

ABSTRACT Mammalian fertilization is a complex multi-step process mediated by different molecules present on both gametes. CRISP1 (cysteine-rich secretory protein 1) is an epididymal protein thought to participate in gamete fusion through its binding to egg-complementary sites. Structure-function studies using recombinant fragments of CRISP1 as well as synthetic peptides reveal that its egg-binding ability resides in a 12 amino acid region corresponding to an evolutionary conserved motif of the CRISP family, named Signature 2 (S2). Further experiments analyzing both the ability of other CRISP proteins to bind to the rat egg and the amino acid sequence of their S2 regions show that the amino acid sequence of the S2 is needed for CRISP1 to interact with the egg. CRISP1 appears to be involved in the first step of sperm binding to the zona pellucida, identifying a novel role for this protein in fertilization. The observation that sperm testicular CRISP2 is also able to bind to the egg surface suggests a role for this protein in gamete fusion. Subsequent experiments confirmed the participation of CRISP2 in this step of fertilization and revealed that CRISP1 and CRISP2 interact with common egg surface binding sites. Together, these results suggest a functional cooperation between CRISP1 and CRISP2 to ensure the success of fertilization. These observations contribute to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying mammalian fertilization.

Keywords:

gamete, oocyte, fertilization, capacitation, fusion

*Corresponding author e-mail: cuasnicu@dna.uba.ar