Pang, P.C. et al: Human Sperm Binding is Mediated by Sialyl-Lewis(X) Oligosaccharide on Zona Pellucida. Science 333, 1761-1764 (2011)
Human fertilization begins when spermatozoa bind to the extracellular matrix coating of the oocyte, known as the zona pellucida (ZP). One spermatozoan then penetrates this matrix and fuses with the egg cell, generating a zygote. Although carbohydrate sequences on the ZP have been implicated in sperm binding, the nature of the ligand was unknown. Here, ultrasensitive mass spectrometric analyses revealed that the sialyl-Lewis(x) sequence [NeuAcα2-3Galβ1-4(Fucα1-3)GlcNAc], a well-known selectin ligand, is the most abundant terminal sequence on the N- and O-glycans of human ZP. Sperm-ZP binding was largely inhibited by glycoconjugates terminated with sialyl-Lewis(x) sequences or by antibodies directed against this sequence. Thus, the sialyl-Lewis(x) sequence represents the major carbohydrate ligand for human sperm-egg binding.
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