A sperm-agglutinating factor was purified from ovulated carp eggs and the conditioned medium (CM) of cortical-reacted eggs. It was identified to be the carp ovarian cystatin. Three cystatin isoforms were found. The cystatin isolated from the CM had a higher sperm-agglutinating activity than that isolated from eggs, although the cystatins have identical N-terminal amino acid sequences, masses, and positive charges. Differences in sperm-agglutinating activity between the cystatins of the CM and eggs may be caused by the different conformations because they differed in circular dichroism spectrum and tryptic map. Cystatin was discharged from cortical granules to the perivitelline space after fertilization and is abundant in the perivitelline fluid (PVF) of early stage embryos. Cystatin rapidly agglutinated spermatozoa via an electrostatic interaction. Other basic proteins also agglutinated carp spermatozoa. Their activities were inhibited by salt and high pH. Cystatin bound to the entire surface of carp spermatozoa. The PVF of early embryos agglutinated carp spermatozoa. The activity was related to the cystatin content and influenced by ionic strength and pH. Therefore, cystatin is the major sperm-agglutinating factor of PVF. Owing to the rapid action of cystatin on spermatozoa agglutination and the presence of a high concentration of cystatin in PVF, cystatin is considered important for preventing polyspermy in carp eggs.
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