Fusion of capacitated spermatozoa with the vitelline membrane, but not actual penetration, appears to initiate the cortical reaction in hamster eggs. The reaction can be artificially induced by the application of positively charged particles to the vitelline surface, a situation which may normally be prevented by the zona pellucida. Exposure of hamster eggs to neuraminidase, to lectins (concanavalin A and phytohaemagglutinin-P), to a monovalent ionophore (boromycin) and to 1,3-bis(4chlorocinnamylideneamino)guanidine elicits a cortical granule discharge resulting in a block to fertilization. These agents all appear to act by inducing depolarization of the vitelline membrane.
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