A dramatic rise in intracellular calcium plays a vital role at the moment of fertilization, eliciting the resumption of meiosis and the initiation of embryo development. In mammals, the rise takes the form of oscillations in calcium concentration within the egg, driven by an elevation in inositol trisphosphate. The causative agent of these oscillations is proposed to be a recently described phosphoinositide-specific phospholipase C, PLCζ, a soluble sperm protein that is delivered into the egg following membrane fusion. In the present review, we examine some of the distinctive structural and functional characteristics of this crucial enzyme that sets it apart from the other known forms of mammalian PLC.

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