Publications and Research

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

June 1961

Abstract

This, the last of a series of three papers, deals with the final events which lead to the incorporation of the spermatozoon with the egg. The material used consisted of moderately polyspermic eggs of Hydroides hexagonus, osmium-fixed at various times up to five minutes after insemination. The first direct contact of sperm head with egg proper is by means of the acrosomal tubules. These deeply indent the egg plasma membrane, and consequently at the apex of the sperm head the surfaces of the two gametes become interdigitated. But at first the sperm and egg plasma membranes maintain their identity and a cross-section through the region of interdigitation shows these two membranes as a number of sets of two closely concentric rings. The egg plasma membrane rises to form a cone which starts to project into the hole which the spermatozoon earlier had produced in the vitelline membrane by means of lysis. But the cone does not literally engulf the sperm head. Instead, where they come into contact, sperm plasma membrane and egg plasma membrane fuse to form one continuous membranous sheet. At this juncture the two gametes have in effect become mutually incorporated and have formed a single fertilized cell with one continuous bounding membrane. At this time, at least, the membrane is a mosaic of mostly egg plasma membrane and a patch of sperm plasma membrane. The evidence indicates that the fusion of the two membranes results from vesiculation of the sperm and egg plasma membranes in the region at which they come to adjoin. Once this fusion of membranes is accomplished, the egg cytoplasm intrudes between the now common membrane and the internal sperm structures, such as the nucleus, and even extends into the flagellum; finally these sperm structures come to lie in the main body of the egg. The vesiculation suggested above appears possibly to resemble pinocytosis, with the difference that the vesicles are formed from the plasma membranes of two cells. At no time, however, is the sperm as a whole engulfed and brought to the interior of the egg within a large vesicle.

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