During fertilization in Drosophila, a single 1.75 mm long sperm enters the egg through the anterior end. Using a sperm-specific monoclonal antibody and indirect immunofluorescence of whole fixed eggs and embryos, intracellular interactions between the sperm and egg are examined as they occur inside the fertilized egg. The sperm nucleus remains attached to the axoneme throughout the entire process of fertilization including the stages of pronuclear maturation, pronuclear fusion and karyogamy indicating an intracellular function for the sperm during these stages. Optical sections and three-dimensional reconstructions of whole mount specimens reveal that a stereotypically folded structure forms during fertilization strongly suggesting that this structure positions the male pronucleus in the proper region of the egg in anticipation of pronuclear fusion. This, and the appearance of regional structural changes in the sperm upon entry suggests that sperm are localized via specific interactions with the maternal cytoplasm. Following fertilization and during the ensuing cleavage divisions, the sperm remains intact and localized at the anterior end of the egg. During cellular blastoderm formation the sperm tail is sequestered into the anterior yolk area where it continues to persist well into embryonic development. This structural analysis identifies intracellular sperm/egg interactions as an important aspect of fertilization, and provides a unique model system for the study of sperm/egg interactions not presently available in other systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology