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Unexpected connections between a phagocytic machinery and mammalian fertilization

Objective

Fertilization is essential for a species to survive. Mammalian sexual reproduction requires the fusion between the haploid gametes sperm and egg to create a new diploid organism. Although fertilization has been studied for decades, and despite the remarkable recent discoveries of Izumo (on sperm) and Juno (on oocytes) as a critical ligand:receptor pair, due to the structure of Izumo and Juno, it is clear that other players on both the sperm and the oocytes must be involved. While the focus of our laboratory over the years has been in understanding apoptotic cell clearance by phagocytes, we accidentally noted that viable, motile, and fertilization-competent sperm exposes phosphatidylserine (PtdSer). PtdSer is a phospholipid normally exposed during apoptosis and functions as an ‘eat-me’ signal for phagocytosis. Further, masking this PtdSer on sperm inhibits fertilization in vitro. Based on additional exciting preliminary data, in this ERC proposal, we will test the hypothesis that PtdSer on viable sperm and the complementary PtdSer receptors on oocytes are key players in mammalian fertilization. We will test this at a molecular, biochemical, cellular, functional, and genetic level. From the sperm perspective — we will ask how does PtdSer changes during sperm maturation, and what molecular mechanisms regulate the exposure of PtdSer on viable sperm. From the oocyte perspective — we will test the genetic relevance of different PtdSer receptors in fertilization. From the PtdSer perspective — we will test PtdSer induces novel signals within oocytes. By combining the tools and knowledge from field of phagocytosis with tools from spermatogenesis/fertilization, this proposal integrates fields that normally do not intersect. In summary, we believe that these studies are innovative, timely, and will identify new players involved in mammalian fertilization. We expect the results of these studies to have high relevance to both male and female reproductive health and fertility.

Field of science

  • /medical and health sciences/health sciences/social biomedical sciences/sexual health

Call for proposal

ERC-2018-ADG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-ADG - Advanced Grant

Host institution

VIB VZW
Address
Rijvisschestraat 120
9052 Zwijnaarde - Gent
Belgium
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 2 499 375

Beneficiaries (1)

VIB VZW
Belgium
EU contribution
€ 2 499 375
Address
Rijvisschestraat 120
9052 Zwijnaarde - Gent
Activity type
Research Organisations