Fertilization begins with interaction between the sperm and the egg. The surface of the vertebrate oocyte is covered with the egg envelope, which is composed of ZP (zona pellucida) glycoproteins. We have identified two glycoproteins, ZP1/gp97 and ZPC/gp42, as the major components of the chicken egg envelope. In the present study, another 42 kDa protein, designated ZPD, has been found as a new major component of the chicken egg envelope. ZPD was specifically released from the egg envelope by ultrasonication treatment without urea. ZPD cDNA was cloned using a chicken granulosa cell cDNA pool. The deduced amino acid sequence showed that preproprotein of ZPD is composed of 418 amino acid residues with four potential N-glycosylation sites and includes a ZP domain, common in vertebrate ZP glycoproteins, and a transmembrane domain. ZPD belongs phylogenetically to a distinct group from known ZP glycoprotein subfamilies, ZPA, ZPB, and ZPC. In two-dimensional gel electrophoresis ZPD proteins were identified to be several isoforms with different pI values between 5 and 7. ZP1, ZPC and the newly identified ZPD were confirmed to be the major components of chicken egg envelope by MS of proteolytic digests of whole egg envelope. The in vitro incubation of chicken sperm with calcium ionophore A23187 induced sperm activation, resulting in the fragmentation and release of a 41 kDa PNA (peanut agglutinin)-positive glycoprotein and the decrease or loss of sperm PNA-stainability. The incubation with ZPD and dimeric ZP1, but not ZPC and monomeric ZP1, also induced the decrease or loss of sperm PNA-stainability, suggesting the in vitro sperm activation by these ZP components. Collectively, ZPD might bind loosely to egg envelope matrix and play a key role in the sperm activation on avian sperm–egg interaction.

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