Fine structure of the mammalian egg cortex



The cortices of a number of mammalian eggs are not strucurally homogeneous but are polarized. In mouse ova the plasma membrane is a mosaic; the cytoplasm overlying the meiotic spindle is devoid of cortical granules and consists of a filamentous layer containing actin. Functionally, this cortical polarity may be related to the restriction of sperm-egg interaction and fusion to a specific region of the ovum cortex and to dynamic changes of the egg cortex during fertilization, including cortical granule exocytosis, polar body formation, and fertilization cone development. The origin of cortical polarity in mammalian oocytes and its possible relation to components of the cytoskeletal system and meiotic apparatus are discussed and compared with cortical features of eggs of other vertebrates and invertebrates.