Comparative Structure and Function of Mammalian Zonae Pellucidae

  • Bonnie S. Dunbar
  • S. V. Prasad
  • T. M. Timmons


The process of fertilization, like other aspects of mammalian reproduction, varies markedly among different species. Of the many complex events that accompany this process, the interaction between the sperm and the zona pellucida (ZP) is one of the most significant. The mammalian ZP is an extracellular glycoprotein structure that is formed around the oocyte during the early stages of ovarian follicular development. This matrix is important in the initial stages of fertilization because the sperm must bind to and penetrate it before fusing with the oocyte plasma membrane (Austin and Braden, 1956; Austin, 1975). The ZP is also involved in the block to polyspermy in many species and further serves to protect the embryo after fertilization until implantation in the uterine wall. Species differences have been reported for several steps in the fertilization process, including sperm capacitation (the changes spermatozoa undergo in the female reproductive tract in order to develop the capacity to fertilize the egg) and sperm binding to and penetration of the ZP. Many of these differences can be attributed to morphological and biochemical variations of the gametes themselves (Yanagimachi, 1977; Bedford, 1974; other chapters in this text).


Granulosa Cell Zona Pellucida Cortical Granule Boar Sperm Sperm Penetration 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bonnie S. Dunbar
    • 1
  • S. V. Prasad
    • 1
  • T. M. Timmons
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cell BiologyBaylor College of MedicineHoustonUSA

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