Fertilization potential and polyspermy prevention in the egg of the nemertean, Cerebratulus lacteus

D. Kline, L. A. Jaffe, Richard P Tucker

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Abstract

We investigated the electrical properties of the egg of the nemertean worm (Cerebratulus, and found evidence that an electrically-mediated polyspermy block operates for a period of about 1 hr after fertilization. At fertilization, in natural or artificial sea water, the membrane potential shifts from its resting level of about -66 mV to a peak of about +43 mV, and in most cases remains greater than 0 mV for more than 1 hr. The average potential during the first 30 min is +22 ± 8 mV (SD, n = 12), When the external Na+ concentration is reduced from 486 to 51 mM (choline substituted) the fertilization potential amplitude is reduced; the average potential during the first 30 min is -27 ± 21 mV (SD, n = 5). Eggs inseminated in 51 mM Na+ sea water become polyspermic, indicating that polyspermy prevention depends on an electrically-mediated mechanism. The electrical block is required for about 60 min, since transfer to 51 mM Na+ sea water during this period results in polyspermy. During the first hour following fertilization, the egg is also developing a permanent, nonelectrical block; the degree of polyspermy which results upon transfer to low Na+ sea water decreases progressively with time. The permanent block appears to be at the level of the egg plasma membrane or glycocalyx, since the egg envelope is not a barrier to sperm penetration, nor does its removal induce polyspermy. Electron micrographs show no obvious changes in the morphology of the extracellular layers, plasma membrane or cortex of the egg after fertilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology
Volume236
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1985

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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