Introduction

Fertilization is the process by which mammalian male (spermatozoon) and female (oocyte or ovum) haploid gametes unite to produce a totipotent diploid zygote that develops into a genetically distinct individual. The fertilization process is composed of a series of sequential steps: 1) sperm capacitation; 2) binding of capacitated sperm to the zona pellucida (ZP); 3) acrosome reaction; 4) sperm penetration of ZP; 5) fusion of spermatozoon and ovum (egg); 6) egg activation; and 7) establishment of the embryonic genome. Descriptions of the molecular and physiological mechanisms for most fertilization events are incomplete and limited primarily to laboratory animals, and for some processes (e.g., intercellular fusion of gametes) are primarily hypothetical.

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