Cell activation during fertilization of the egg of Xenopus laevis is accompanied by various metabolic changes, including a permanent increase in intracellular pH (pHi) and a transient increase in intracellular free calcium activity ([Ca2+]i). Recently, it has been proposed that protein kinase C (PKC) is an integral component of the Xenopus fertilization pathway (Bement and Capco, J. Cell Biol. 108, 885–892, 1989). Indeed, activators of PKC trigger cortical granule exocytosis and cortical contraction, two events of egg activation, without, however, releasing the cell cycle arrest (blocked in second metaphase of meiosis). In the egg of Xenopus, exocytosis as well as cell cycle reinitiation are supposed to be triggered by the intracellular Ca2+ transient. We report here that PKC activators do not induce the intracellular Ca2+ transient, or the activation-associated increase in pHi. These results suggest that the ionic responses to egg activation in Xenopus do not appear to depend on the activation of PKC. In addition, in eggs already pretreated with phorbol esters, those artificial activators that act by releasing Ca2+ intracellularly, triggered a diminished increase in pHi. Finally, sphingosine and staurosporine, two potent inhibitors of PKC, were found to trigger egg activation, suggesting that a decrease in PKC activity might be an essential event in the release of the metaphase block, in agreement with recent findings on the release of the prophase block in Xenopus oocytes (Varnold and Smith, Development 109, 597–604, 1990).

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