The ultrastructural details of fertilization in the fern Marsilea vestita, including gamete approach and fusion, the fate of the spermatozoid organelles and the development of a possible block to polyspermy are described. The spermatozoid approaches the egg through layers of mucilage that surround the megaspores. It moves down the neck of the archegonium into the cavity above the egg. In order to reach the egg, it must move through a small hole in the thick wall that lies across the top of the egg. The fusion of the plasma membranes of the gametes results in an outflow of egg cytoplasm into the clear space under the sperm plasma membrane, creating a fertilization cone. All the organelles of the fertilizing spermatozoid, including nucleus, mitochondrion, microtubule ribbon, multilayered structure, and flagellar band, with approximately 150 flagella, enter the egg cytoplasm. The nucleus enters as a condensed rod of chromatin with no nuclear envelope. The chromatin begins to disperse immediately and a new nuclear envelope is formed around the chromatin by egg endoplasmic reticulum. The mitochondrion and the microtubules of the ribbon and flagella are broken down, but the fates of the flagellar band and the multilayered structure have not been determined. After spermatozoid penetration, a new extracellular layer appears above the surface of the egg, beginning in the region of sperm penetration and spreading across the top of the egg. This layer may be important in preventing other spermatozoids from fusing with the egg.

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