Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

December 1963


Previous electron microscope studies of sperm-egg association in the annelid Hydroides revealed novel aspects with respect to the acrosomal region. To determine whether these aspects were unique, a comparable study was made of a species belonging to a widely separated phylum, Hemichordata. Osmium tetroxide-fixed polyspermic material of the enteropneust, Saccoglossus, was used. The acrosomal region includes the membrane-bounded acrosome, with its large acrosomal granule and shallow adnuclear invagination, and the periacrosomal material which surrounds the acrosome except at the apex; here, the acrosomal membrane lies very close to the enclosing sperm plasma membrane. After reaching the egg envelope, the spermatozoon is activated and undergoes a series of changes: the apex dehisces and around the resulting orifice the acrosomal and sperm plasma membranes form a continuous mosaic membrane. The acrosomal granule disappears. Within 7 seconds the invagination becomes the acrosomal tubule, spans the egg envelopes, and meets the egg plasma membrane. The rest of the acrosomal vesicle everts. The periacrosomal mass changes profoundly: part becomes a fibrous core (possibly equivalent to a perforatorium); part remains as a peripheral ring. The basic pattern of structure and sperm-egg association in Saccoglossus is the same as in Hydroides. Previous evidence from four other phyla as interpreted here also indicates conformity to this pattern. The major role of the acrosome is apparently to deliver the sperm plasma membrane to the egg plasma membrane.


This work was originally published in The Journal of Cell Biology.



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