The rat sperm surface antigen 2D6, located over the entire surface of the spermatozoon, is shown by use of a monoclonal antibody in indirect immunofluorescence experiments to spread laterally over the surface of the egg after fusion of sperm and egg plasma membranes at fertilization. Freshly fertilized eggs, obtained from superovulated rats 14h after hCG injection, showed the 2D6 antigen to have spread in a gradient over a discrete fan-shaped area of the egg surface anterior to the protruding sperm tail. Eggs at a later stage of sperm incorporation, obtained 20 h after hCG injection, snowed that the spread of antigen had extended to cover most or all of their surfaces. By 40 h after hCG injection, the approximate time that fertilized eggs cleaved to form 2-cell embryos, most of the 2D6 antigen had been lost from the cell surface. Fertilized eggs, but not unfertilized eggs or 2-cell embryos, were lysed by 2D6 monoclonal antibody in the presence of guinea pig complement. A model for sperm-egg fusion is presented to account for the observed pattern of spreading shown by the 2D6 antigen. The possible role of sperm antigens on the egg surface is discussed.

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