Fertilization in mammals is initiated by species-restricted binding of free-swimming sperm to the unfertilized egg’s thick extracellular matrix, the zona pellucida (ZP). Both acrosome-intact and acrosome-reacted sperm can bind to the ZP, but only the latter can penetrate the ZP, reach the egg’s plasma membrane, and fuse with plasma membrane (fertilization) to produce a zygote. Following fertilization, the ZP is modified by cortical granule components such that acrosome-intact and acrosome-reacted sperm are unable to bind to fertilized eggs. Here we review some of the evidence that bears directly on the involvement of two mouse ZP proteins, mZP2 and mZP3, as receptors for binding of mouse sperm to unfertilized eggs and address some contentious issues surrounding this important initial step in the process of mammalian fertilization.
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