Researchers detect little-known protein in vertebrate fertilisation process

Aug 13, 2013

Researchers from Heidelberg have decoded a previously unknown molecular mechanism in the fertilisation process of vertebrates. The team of scientists at the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University identified a specific protein in frog egg extracts that the male basal bodies need, but that is produced only by the reproductive cells of the female. This "teamwork" between the egg and sperm is what makes embryo development possible. The results of the research were published in The Journal of Cell Biology.

Several years ago Prof. Dr. Oliver Gruß and his colleagues used sensitive mass spectrometry to begin looking for protein materials that were newly synthesised during meiosis, as new were formed, thus making cell division efficient. In the process, they identified a previously little-known protein. The so-called synovial sarcoma X breakpoint protein (SSX2IP) is indeed formed during meiosis, but not required for it. "At first we were at a loss to explain the function of SSX2IP", says Dr. Felix Bärenz, a member of Oliver Gruß' working group.

The breakthrough came when the researchers went one step further, simulating fertilisation of the frog's egg in the test tube. It was then they discovered that the SSX2IP produced after fertilisation and penetration of the egg by the sperm reanimated the basal bodies of the sperm. Because the egg loses its basal bodies as it matures, the reactivation of the male's basal bodies is vital for the embryo's development. They, in turn, build the embryo's division apparatus – the mitotic spindles – without whose precise function continued cell division and successful would be impossible.

"In a cell culture, we were also able to prove that SSX2IP plays a similar role in human cells", explains Prof. Gruß. Without the human SSX2IP protein, obvious errors occurred in the function of division apparatus. "It's therefore quite conceivable that defects in SSX2IP synthesis during maturation could lead to infertility or embryonic deformities", surmises the Heidelberg biochemist.

Explore further: Micro fingers for arranging single cells

Related Stories

'Kick-starting' male fertility

Sep 21, 2012

Adding a missing protein to infertile human sperm can 'kick-start' its ability to fertilise an egg and dramatically increase the chances of a successful pregnancy, a team of Cardiff University scientists have uncovered.

Important fertility mechanism discovered

Apr 24, 2013

Scientists in Mainz and Aachen have discovered a new mechanism that controls egg cell fertility and that might have future therapeutic potential. It was revealed by Professor Dr. Walter Stöcker of the Institute ...

Egg cells use unusual method of division

Aug 27, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a study of egg cells using time-lapse microscopy, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research have discovered an unusual property ...

Explainer: Why does female fertility decline?

Jun 17, 2013

Former Olympic swimmer Lisa Curry has announced she will undergo fertility treatment to try to have a baby with her partner of three years. News reports say doctors estimate she has less than a 10% chance of success. ...

Recommended for you

Micro fingers for arranging single cells

17 hours ago

Functional analysis of a cell, which is the fundamental unit of life, is important for gaining new insights into medical and pharmaceutical fields. For efficiently studying cell functions, it is essential ...

Detailed structure of human ribosome revealed

19 hours ago

A team at the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC - CNRS/Université de Strasbourg/Inserm) has evidenced, at the atomic scale, the three-dimensional structure of the complete ...

How to kill a protein

19 hours ago

For decades scientists have been looking closely at how our cells make proteins. But the inverse is equally important: how cells kill them.

How RNA machinery navigates our genomic obstacle course

19 hours ago

Once upon a time, scientists thought RNA polymerase—the molecule that kicks off protein synthesis by transcribing DNA into RNA—worked like a wind-up toy: Set it down at a start site in our DNA and it ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.