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A major unresolved issue in developmental biology is the precise mechanism whereby the sperm activates the oocyte. With the discovery that calcium signals are the primary trigger for oocyte activation, a key remaining question became the identification of the signaling protein that mediates such calcium signals at fertilization. A major step forward came in 2002 with the discovery of a sperm-specific mammalian phospholipase C called phospholipase C zeta (PLCζ), which had the expected properties of the mammalian oocyte activation factor and was subsequently identified in other vertebrate groups. Most recently, defects in PLCζ have been shown to be linked to certain types of male infertility in humans. Despite these advances, many questions remain about the precise mechanism of action of PLCζ and the extent of its role during oocyte activation in the vertebrate kingdom. In this review, we will look at the current state of understanding of PLCζ's mechanism of action and physiological role in mammals and other vertebrates, and identify areas of uncertainty that still remain to be resolved.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Reprod Dev

Publication Date





846 - 853


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Female, Growth and Development, Humans, Male, Models, Biological, Molecular Sequence Data, Phosphoinositide Phospholipase C, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, Vertebrates