The findings, presented in Nature, gives a first glimpse into the molecular architecture of animal egg coats, with important implications for the future of human reproductive medicine and the possibility of developing novel contraceptives.
The beginning of every new life starts with fertilization, the most crucial step of which is the initial species-specific recognition between egg and sperm. The receptors for sperm, proteins ZP3 and ZP2, contain a common sequence that allows them to form a matrix of filaments, the so-called zona pellucida that completely surrounds the egg. The Protein Crystallography Unit at Karolinska Institutet, led by Dr. Luca Jovine, has now determined the structure of the most conserved part of this building block, the ZP-N domain.
"ZP3 was identified almost 30 years ago, but obtaining structural information on this key reproductive protein has been technically challenging due to its high heterogeneity", says Luca Jovine.
The zona pellucida is essential for natural fertilization in mammals. The Karolinska Institutet researchers hope that X-ray crystallographic characterization of a region of ZP3 that is important for its ability to polymerize could help explaining cases of human infertility, as well as lead to the development of novel targeted, non-hormonal contraceptives. The research made on the ZP-N domain has also provided insights that extend beyond the field of reproduction. Among other things, an unexpected parallel has been uncovered with molecular features that are involved in speciation among invertebrates.
Moreover, ZP-N domains are also found in many other extracellular proteins that are unrelated to fertilization, but play important roles in human diseases such as non-syndromic deafness, renal and vascular disorders, and cancer. In the Nature paper, an example is discussed that shows how the structure of ZP-N can be used to understand the molecular basis of some of these disorders.
"Mammalian fertilization involves a highly complex series of events. Our findings pave the way for future investigations into this fascinating subject by providing a first snapshot of the beginning of life at atomic resolution", says Luca Jovine.
The research was supported by Karolinska Institutet, the Swedish Research Council and the EU Sixth Framework Programme.
Publication: 'Crystal structure of the ZP-N domain of ZP3 reveals the core fold of animal egg coats', Magnus Monné, Ling Han, Thomas Schwend, Sofia Burendahl & Luca Jovine, Nature, 4 December 2008.
For more information, please contact:Dr Luca Jovine
Katarina Sternudd | idw
New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule
12.12.2018 | UT Southwestern Medical Center
Pain: Perception and motor impulses arise in the brain independently of one another
12.12.2018 | Technische Universität München
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Health and Medicine
12.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2018 | Health and Medicine