The contents of the sperm acrosome are compartmentalized at the biochemical and morphological levels. Biochemically, the acrosome can be considered to be comprised of two compartments: one consisting of readily soluble proteins and one containing a particulate acrosomal matrix. To test the hypothesis that compartmentalization affects the release of acrosomal components during the course of secretion in guinea pig sperm, we examined the relationship between the presence of specific proteins and acrosomal status and monitored the recovery of acrosomal constituents in the medium surrounding sperm induced to undergo exocytosis with the ionophore A23187. Cysteine-rich secretory protein 2 (CRISP-2), a soluble component of the acrosome, was rapidly lost from the acrosome soon after ionophore treatment. However, acrosomal matrix components remained associated with the sperm for longer periods. AM67, a matrix component and the guinea pig orthologue of the mouse sperm zona pellucida-binding protein sp56, was released at a slower rate than was CRISP-2 but at a faster rate than were two other matrix proteins, AM50 and proacrosin. Coincident with their release from the sperm, AM50 and proacrosin were posttranslationally modified, probably by proteolysis. The release of proacrosin from the matrix appears associated with the conversion of this protein to the enzymatically active acrosin protease. These results provide strong support for the hypothesis that compartmentalization plays a significant role in regulating the release of proteins during the course of acrosomal exocytosis. Acrosomal matrix proteins remain associated with the sperm for prolonged periods of time following the induction of acrosomal exocytosis, suggesting that transitional acrosomal intermediates may have significant functions in the fertilization process.
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