Identification and Development of Enzymes Associated With the Sperm Inner Acrosomal Membrane and Their Function During Fertilization
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In order for mammalian fertilization to transpire, spermatozoa must transit through the female reproductive tract and penetrate the outer investments of the oocyte: the cumulus oophorus and the zona pellucida. In order to penetrate the oocyte, spermatozoa must undergo the acrosome reaction. The acrosome reaction results in the exposure of the inner acrosomal membrane (IAM) and proteins that coat it to the extracellular environment. After the acrosome reaction, the IAM becomes the leading edge of spermatozoa undergoing progressive movement. Thus the enzymes which effect lysis of the oocyte investments ought to be located on the IAM. An objective of this study was to identify and characterize enzymatic activity detected on the IAM and provide evidence that they play a role in fertilization. This study also describes procedures for fractionating spermatozoa and isolating the IAM and proteins on its intra- and extra-vesicular surfaces, and describes their development during male gametogenesis. Since the IAM is exposed to the extracellular environment and oviductal milieu after the acrosome reaction, this study also sought to characterize interactions and relationships between factors in the oviductal environment and the enzymes identified on the IAM. The data presented provide evidence that MMP2 and acrosin are co-localized on the IAM, originate from the Golgi apparatus in gametogenesis, and suggest they cooperate in their function. Their localization and results of in vitro fertilization suggests they have a function in zona pellucida penetration. The data also provide evidence that plasminogen, originating from the oviductal epithelium and/or cumulus-oocyte complex, is present in the immediate environment of sperm-egg initial contact and penetration. Additionally, plasminogen interacts with MMP2 and enhances its enzymatic action on the IAM. The data also provide evidence that MMP2 has an important function in penetration of the cumulus oophorus. Holistically, this thesis provides evidence that enzymes on the IAM, originating from the Golgi apparatus in development, have an important function in penetration of the outer investments of the oocyte, and are aided in penetration by plasminogen in the female reproductive tract.