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Keywords:

  • Fertilization;
  • fibronectin;
  • integrins;
  • oocyte;
  • phagocytosis;
  • spermatozoa;
  • vitronectin

While considerable information exists regarding the early interactions of spermatozoon and egg that lead to successful fertilization, the molecular biology of events that result in the incorporation of the spermatozoon within the cortical ooplasm is largely undefined. There is circumstantial evidence suggesting that this process involves the interactions of specific oolemmal receptors and their ligands on sperm that bear similarities to mechanisms used in phagocytosis by macrophages. We have postulated that the egg may act as a ‘non-professional phagocyte’ during its association with the spermatozoon. This review surveys those events, provides an historical context, and creates a paradigm for further investigation.