Avian egg and egg coat

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Abstract

An ovulated egg of vertebrates is surrounded by unique extracellular matrix, the egg coat or zona pellucida, playing important roles in fertilization and early development. The vertebrate egg coat is composed of two to six zona pellucida (ZP) glycoproteins that are characterized by the evolutionarily conserved ZP-domain module and classified into six subfamilies based on phylogenetic analyses. Interestingly, investigations of biochemical and functional features of the ZP glycoproteins show that the roles of each ZP-glycoprotein family member in the egg-coat formation and the egg–sperm interactions seemingly vary across vertebrates. This might be one reason why comprehensive understandings of the molecular basis of either architecture or physiological functions of egg coat still remain elusive despite more than 3 decades of intensive investigations. In this chapter, an overview of avian egg focusing on the oogenesis are provided in the first section, and unique features of avian egg coat, i.e., perivitelline layer, including the morphology, biogenesis pathway, and physiological functions are discussed mainly on chicken and quail in terms of the characteristics of ZP glycoproteins in the following sections. In addition, these features of avian egg coat are compared to mammalian zona pellucida, from the viewpoint that the structural and functional varieties of ZP glycoproteins might be associated with the evolutionary adaptation to their reproductive strategies. By comparing the egg coat of birds and mammals whose reproductive strategies are largely different, new insights into the molecular mechanisms of vertebrate egg–sperm interactions might be provided.

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Okumura, H. (2017). Avian egg and egg coat. In Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology (Vol. 1001, pp. 75–90). Springer New York LLC. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-3975-1_5

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