In the starfish, Asterias amurensis, three components in the jelly coat of eggs, namely acrosome reaction-inducing substance (ARIS), Co-ARIS and asterosap, act in concert on homologous spermatozoa to induce the acrosome reaction (AR). Molecular recognition between the sperm surface molecules and the egg jelly molecules must underlie signal transduction events triggering the AR. Asterosap is a sperm-activating molecule, which stimulates rapid synthesis of intracellular cGMP, pH and Ca2+. This transient elevation of Ca2+ level is caused by a K+-dependent Na+/Ca2+ exchanger, and the increase of intracellular pH is sufficient for ARIS to induce the AR. The concerted action of ARIS and asterosap could induce elevate intracellular cAMP levels in starfish sperm and the sustained increase in [Ca2+], which is essential for the AR. The signaling pathway induced by these factors seems to be synergistically regulated to trigger the AR in starfish sperm.
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