Parthenogenetic mouse embryos were obtained by the method of electrical stimulation of eggs in vivo (Tarkowski et al., 1970), and their developmental retardation and limited viability were confirmed. Very early deviations from normalcy seemed likely in these embryos, and we chose to investigate their "zona reaction," as this is one of the earliest events identified (Braden, et al., 1954) in normal fertilization. The change, ordinarily triggered by sperm penetration of the egg, decreases the permeability of the zona pellucida to supernumerary sperms, and has been attributed (Austin and Braden, 1956) to products released by cortical granules. An indirect assay for the state of the zona pellucida is presented. It is based on the observation (Mintz, 1970) that pronase, other proteolytic enzymes, and the normal uterine zonalytic factor lyse zonas of fertilized eggs more slowly than those of unfertilized eggs. Comparative zona lysis times in pronase are thus employed as a test for the degree of zona change after parthenogenetic activation relative to that after activation by sperm. The zonas of parthenogenetic embryos in stages ranging from 2 to 14 cells varied in their lysis times in pronase and overlapped with those of unfertilized and fertilized egg zonas. As a population, the zonas of the parthenogenones had intermediate lysis times. Thus, in the strains tested, electrical shock evokes only a partial zona reaction and, in this respect, is not an adequate substitute for sperm penetration. A working hypothesis for future testing is that the subnormal zona change and retarded development may both be due to inadequate release of products from cortical granules, under these conditions of artificial activation of the mouse egg.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology