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Science 291 (5511): 2144-2147

Copyright © 2001 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

A Sperm Cytoskeletal Protein That Signals Oocyte Meiotic Maturation and Ovulation

Michael A. Miller,1 Viet Q. Nguyen,2 Min-Ho Lee,3 Mary Kosinski,1 Tim Schedl,3 Richard M. Caprioli,2 David Greenstein1*

Caenorhabditis elegans oocytes, like those of most animals, arrest during meiotic prophase. Sperm promote the resumption of meiosis (maturation) and contraction of smooth muscle-like gonadal sheath cells, which are required for ovulation. We show that the major sperm cytoskeletal protein (MSP) is a bipartite signal for oocyte maturation and sheath contraction. MSP also functions in sperm locomotion, playing a role analogous to actin. Thus, during evolution, MSP has acquired extracellular signaling and intracellular cytoskeletal functions for reproduction. Proteins with MSP-like domains are found in plants, fungi, and other animals, suggesting that related signaling functions may exist in other phyla.

1 Department of Cell Biology,
2 Mass Spectrometry Research Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.
3 Department of Genetics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: david.greenstein{at}

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