The contact with the pellucid zone
When the sperm cells encounter the pellucid zone they bind themselves there. Following the binding of the sperm cells to the pellucid zone the acrosome reaction is then induced through ZP3 (zona protein 3).
The acrosome reaction
During the acrosome reaction the contents of the acrosome are released outwardly. The cell membrane of the spermatozoon fuses with the outer membrane of the acrosome. The contents of the acrosome flow out through the resulting pores.
That the zona-binding represents a decisive step in the fertilization cascade can perhaps be seen in the fact that the zona-binding is species specific; the subsequent binding of the oocyte membrane onto the oolemma, on the other hand, is not.
When the acrosome reaction has been completed, the spermatozoon is now covered at its upper end only by the former inner membrane of the acrosome. For the further progress of the fertilization this is decisive because structures are thereby uncovered which are necessary for contact with the oocyte. One consequence of this is that changes appear, especially in the post-acrosomal membrane area of the spermatozoon.
The penetration of the pellucid zone
The enzymes that are released in the immediate vicinity of the pellucid zone by the acrosome reaction dissolve it locally and thus create a way through it for the sperm cells. A number of enzymes that have been released are involved. The best known are the already mentioned hyaluronidase and acrosin, whereby the acrosin makes it possible for the spermatozoa to get through the pellucid zone.