We examined the modification of the MC31 molecule during capacitation, the acrosome reaction, and studied its role in fertilization. These studies revealed that the molecular mass of MC31 in cauda spermatozoa was approximately 28 000–26 000 Dalton (28–26 kDa). A limited change in molecular mass was seen in capacitated spermatozoa. Treatment of sperm extracts with peptide-N-glycosidase (PN glycosidase) reduced the molecular mass of MC31 in both cauda and capacitated spermatozoa from 28–26 kDa to 23–20 kDa, suggesting that MC31 from both cauda and capacitated spermatozoa is glycosylated, and indicating that capacitation induces minor posttranslational modifications in the structure of the MC31 antigen. The MC31 antigen was redistributed from the midpiece of cauda epididymal spermatozoa to the head and equatorial segment after capacitation and acrosome reaction, respectively, when traced by indirect immunofluorescence under in vitro fertilization (IVF) conditions. Some spermatozoa did not stain for the MC31 antigen and might represent spermatozoa that have shed the antigen. IVF experiments conducted to assess the effect of an anti-MC31 monoclonal antibody (mMC31) revealed that this antibody significantly (P < 0.01) inhibited fertilization of cumulus-invested zona pellucida-intact and the zona pellucida-free oocytes in a dose-dependent manner. However, sperm-oolemma binding was not affected. These findings suggest the MC31 antigen facilitates sperm-oocyte interactions.
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