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Sperm interaction with an egg in animals was first documented 160 years ago in sea urchins by Alphonse Derbès (1847) when he noted the formation of an "envelope" following the sperm's "approach" to the egg. The "envelope" in sea urchins is an obvious phenotype of fertilization in this animal and over the past 35 years has served to indicate a presence of calcium released from cytoplasmic stores essential to activate the egg. The mechanism of calcium release has been intensely studied because it is a universal regulator of cellular activity, and recently several intersecting pathways of calcium release have been defined. Here we examine these various mechanisms with special emphasis on recent work in eggs of both sea urchins and mice.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Dyn

Publication Date





2027 - 2038


Animals, Dihydropyridines, Female, Fertilization, Male, Mice, Ovum, Spermatozoa