Fertilization is initiated by the species-specific binding of sperm to the extracellular coat of the egg. One sperm receptor for the mouse egg is β-1,4-galactosyltransferase (GalTase), which binds O-linked oligosaccharides on the egg coat glycoprotein ZP3. ZP3 binding induces acrosomal exocytosis through the activation of a pertussis toxin-sensitive heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide-binding protein (G protein). The cytoplasmic domain of sperm surface GalTase bound to and activated a heterotrimeric G protein complex that contained the Giα subunit. Aggregation of GalTase by multivalent ligands elicited G protein activation. Sperm from transgenic mice that overexpressed GalTase had higher rates of G protein activation than did wild-type sperm, which rendered transgenic sperm hypersensitive to their ZP3 ligand. Thus, the cytoplasmic domain of cell surface GalTase appears to enable it to function as a signal-transducing receptor for extracellular oligosaccharide ligands.
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