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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the obstacles that sperm must overcome to reach an oocyte
  • Explain capacitation and its importance in fertilization
  • Summarize the events that occur as a sperm fertilizes an oocyte

Fertilization occurs when a sperm and an oocyte (egg) combine and their nuclei fuse. Because each of these reproductive cells is a haploid cell containing half of the genetic material needed to form a human being, their combination forms a diploid cell. This new single cell, called a zygote    , contains all of the genetic material needed to form a human—half from the mother and half from the father.

Transit of sperm

Fertilization is a numbers game. During ejaculation, hundreds of millions of sperm (spermatozoa) are released into the vagina. Almost immediately, millions of these sperm are overcome by the acidity of the vagina (approximately pH 3.8), and millions more may be blocked from entering the uterus by thick cervical mucus. Of those that do enter, thousands are destroyed by phagocytic uterine leukocytes. Thus, the race into the uterine tubes, which is the most typical site for sperm to encounter the oocyte, is reduced to a few thousand contenders. Their journey—thought to be facilitated by uterine contractions—usually takes from 30 minutes to 2 hours. If the sperm do not encounter an oocyte immediately, they can survive in the uterine tubes for another 3–5 days. Thus, fertilization can still occur if intercourse takes place a few days before ovulation. In comparison, an oocyte can survive independently for only approximately 24 hours following ovulation. Intercourse more than a day after ovulation will therefore usually not result in fertilization.

During the journey, fluids in the female reproductive tract prepare the sperm for fertilization through a process called capacitation    , or priming. The fluids improve the motility of the spermatozoa. They also deplete cholesterol molecules embedded in the membrane of the head of the sperm, thinning the membrane in such a way that will help facilitate the release of the lysosomal (digestive) enzymes needed for the sperm to penetrate the oocyte’s exterior once contact is made. Sperm must undergo the process of capacitation in order to have the “capacity” to fertilize an oocyte. If they reach the oocyte before capacitation is complete, they will be unable to penetrate the oocyte’s thick outer layer of cells.

Contact between sperm and oocyte

Upon ovulation, the oocyte released by the ovary is swept into—and along—the uterine tube. Fertilization must occur in the distal uterine tube because an unfertilized oocyte cannot survive the 72-hour journey to the uterus. As you will recall from your study of the oogenesis, this oocyte (specifically a secondary oocyte) is surrounded by two protective layers. The corona radiata    is an outer layer of follicular (granulosa) cells that form around a developing oocyte in the ovary and remain with it upon ovulation. The underlying zona pellucida    (pellucid = “transparent”) is a transparent, but thick, glycoprotein membrane that surrounds the cell’s plasma membrane.

Questions & Answers

all of the following substance move in in and out of cell except
Mohd Reply
all of the following substance move in and out of cells except
Mohd
Which signaling molecule is most likely responsible for an increase in digestive activity?
Tonya Reply
Hi I think it is DNA
libim
Homeostatasis return to the body to a healthy state after a stressful stimuli by producing
Ofosu Reply
There are some people suffering serious injured what will we do in doing X-ray?
Jefford Reply
observe bone arrangements n associated structures like soft tissues muscles in general the radiographical changes
Terry
epithelial tissue lines blood vessels
Laura Reply
what is difference between anabolism and catabolism in simple language
Chinaza Reply
anabolism simply means building up while catabolism breaking down
Maaruf
building up and breaking down
odeh
explain respiratory centers
Tharshana Reply
which enzyme help in excretion of bile
Sakshi Reply
how conversion of Beta-carotiene into vitamin-A takes place
Sakshi
best reference books for anatomy pls suggest that
Sakshi
what is gross anatomy
Saroj Reply
The study of large structure of the body
Mablean
macroscopic anatomy (Gross anatomy)
odeh
manipulation of structures without aid of microscope due to their size
libim
what is scrotum
Dakshit Reply
a bag of skin near the penis which contains the testicles
Mablean
hi
Sardar
its me Sardar from kpk pakistan
Sardar
Why are you on my digits
Mablean
hi
Kryme
it is part if male organ that hold testis in position it also regulates temperature
libim
how does it work?
Uriah Reply
I want to know the fertilization process in human
Nana Reply
Which plane divides the body into right and left parts
Kaeze
sagittal plane
Irvin
Thank you
Kaeze
Homestatic regulations usually involves a (n) _ that detects a particular stimulus, and a(n) _that respond to the stimulus by communicating with a (n) _whose activity has an effect on the same stimulus.
Kaeze
A cell is producing proteins to be transported out of that cell. They will be processed on ribosomes that are
Kaeze
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Azoyenime Reply
Haemophilia
Aliyu
right hypochondriac rision how meain word
Ganesh Reply
Diabetes insipidus or diabetes mellitus would most likely be indicated by ________.
Ganesh
oral cavity how miean
Ganesh Reply
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Suresh
seems to me every one is here a doctor and worse part is that even they donot know what to ask.
Muhammad
they know what to ask the problem is how to ask it.too much broken english.
George
dear George ongeche I think if they ask these kind questions and telling themselves as HCPs or medical student's .these are the basic ones go ask something more interesting .
Muhammad

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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