Voltage-clamp study of the activation currents and fast block to polyspermy in the egg of Xenopus laevis

David Glahn, Richard Nuccitelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Voltage-clamped mature, jelly-intact Xenopus eggs were used to carefully examine the ionic currents crossing the plasma membrane before, during, and after fertilization. The bulk of the fertilization current was transient, of large amplitude, and reversed at the predicted CI- reversal potential. However, the large amplitude fertilization current was preceded by a small, step-like increase in holding current. This small increase in holding current is referred to in this paper as Ion to acknowledge its qualitative similarity to the Ion current previously described in the sea urchin. It was observed in both fertilized and artificially activated eggs, and was found to be unaffected by 10 mM tetra-ethyl ammonium (TEA), a concentration found to block K+ currents in Rana pipiens. Current-voltage relationships are presented for the large fertilization potential, and show that the fertilization currents have a marked outward rectification and are voltage sensitive. These properties are in contrast to the total lack of rectification and slight voltage sensitivity seen before or after the fertilization currents. The time required for sperm to fertilize the egg was found to be voltage dependent with a relatively more depolarized voltage requiring a longer time for fertilization to occur. The percentage of eggs blocked with varying potential levels was determined and this information was fitted to a modified Boltzmann equation having a midpoint of -9 mV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-197
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopment Growth and Differentiation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Egg activation
  • Electrical block to polyspermy
  • Fertilization
  • Frog egg

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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