The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 52: 585 - 594 (2008)

Vol 52, Issue 5-6

Special Issue: Fertilization

The dynamics of calcium oscillations that activate mammalian eggs

Open Access | Published: 1 July 2008

Karl Swann* and Yuansong Yu

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK


It has been known for some time that mammalian eggs are activated by a series of intracellular calcium oscillations that occur shortly after sperm egg membrane fusion. Recent work has identified a novel sperm specific phospholipase C zeta as the likely agent that stimulates the calcium oscillations in eggs after sperm-egg membrane fusion. PLCzeta is stimulated by low intracellular calcium levels in a manner which suggests that there is a regenerative feedback of calcium release and PLCzeta induced inositol 1,4,5-trisphophate (InsP3) production in eggs. This implies calcium oscillations in fertilizing mammalian eggs are driven by underlying oscillations of InsP3. This model of oscillations is supported by the response of mouse eggs to sudden increases in InsP3. The cellular targets of calcium oscillations include calmodulin-dependent protein kinases, protein kinase C and mitochondria. There is evidence that eggs might be best activated by multiple calcium increases rather than a single calcium rise. As yet we do not fully understand how the target of calcium in a mammalian egg might decode the patterns of calcium changes that can occur during egg activation.


fertilization, egg, sperm, calcium, oscillations

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