Fertilization in mammals requires the successful completion of many steps, starting with the transport of gametes in the reproductive tract and ending with sperm-egg membrane fusion. In this minireview, we focus on three adhesion steps in this multistep process. The first is oocyte “pick-up,” in which the degree of adhesion between the extracellular matrix of the cumulus cells and oviductal epithelial cells controls the successful pick-up of the oocyte-cumulus complex and its subsequent transfer into the oviduct. The second part of this review is concerned with the interaction between the sperm and the zona pellucida of the egg. Evidence is discussed that a plasma membrane form of galactosyltransferase on the surface of mouse sperm binds to ZP3 in the zona pellucida and initiates an acrosome reaction. Additional evidence raises the possibility that initial sperm binding to the zona pellucida is independent of ZP3. Last, we address the relationship between sperm adhesion to the egg plasma membrane and membrane fusion, especially the role of ADAM family proteins on the sperm surface and egg integrins.
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