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Laygo, Demi Jamie


Fertility mystery solved: protein discovered that joins
sperm with eggs
British scientists' identification of Juno molecule opens door to new
developments in fertility treatment and contraception
A fundamental key to fertility has been uncovered by British scientists with the
discovery of an elusive protein that allows eggs and sperm to join together.
The molecule – named Juno after the Roman goddess of fertility – sits on the egg
surface and binds with a male partner on a fertilising sperm cell.
Japanese researchers identified the sperm protein in 2005, sparking a decade-
long hunt for its "mate".
Understanding the process by which the molecules interact opens the door to
new developments in fertility treatment and contraception.
"We have solved a long-standing mystery in biology by identifying the molecules
displayed on all sperm and egg that must bind each other at the moment we
were conceived," said lead researcher Dr Gavin Wright, from the Wellcome Trust
Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire.
"Without this essential interaction, fertilisation just cannot happen. We may be
able to use this discovery to improve fertility treatments and develop new
The Sanger Institute team first created an artificial version of the sperm protein,
called Izumo1 after a Japanese marriage shrine.
This was then used to search for binding partners on the surface of the egg. A
single protein, Juno, was identified as Izumo1's "other half".
Juno's importance to fertility was revealed by female laboratory mice engineered
to produce eggs lacking the molecule.
All the animals were infertile, their eggs incapable of fusing with normal sperm.
Male mice missing Izumo1 were also unable to conceive, highlighting this
protein's role in male fertility.
The research, reported in the journal Nature, also suggests that Juno plays a role
in preventing additional sperm fusing with an already fertilised egg.
"The Izumo-Juno pairing is the first known essential interaction for sperm-egg
recognition in any organism," said co-author Dr Enrica Bianchi, also from the

it would be useful to know how many women have eggs that lack this protein so we can properly assess this. "The binding of the two proteins is very weak." After the initial binding of sperm and egg. with sperm randomly fertilising eggs in a laboratory dish. However. . "Yet the information could be immensely useful to help in the diagnosis of infertility but also in the design of new novel contraceptives for both humans and other animal species. becoming virtually undetectable after 40 minutes. and found that only Juno interacted with Izumo1. it may be possible to bypass the natural mating of Izumo1 and Juno using intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (Icsi). but unlike its brethren is unable to bind to folic acid. If they do. Regular In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment. However. We are still remarkably sketchy about some of the key molecules involved in the early stages of fertilisation when the sperm and egg first interact. could not work without Juno. The researchers looked at three folate receptors. The scientists are now screening infertile women to see whether Juno defects underlie their condition. the scientists found. This may help explain why as soon as an egg is fertilised by one sperm cell it puts up a barrier against others. Juno belongs to a family of "folate receptor" proteins.Sanger Institute. senior lecturer in reproduction and developmental medicine at the University of Sheffield. This is an increasingly popular method of IVF which involves injecting a sperm directly into an egg. Juno bows out. "We know that fertilisation failure in IVF is quite rare. Perhaps the most obvious biomedical application of this finding is whether screening for this protein (or its gene in a blood sample) could be used as a test of fertility. Leading fertility expert Dr Allan Pacey. Fertilisation involving more than one sperm would lead to the formation of abnormal doomed embryos with too many chromosomes. "The identification of the Juno protein opens up many exciting prospects. which probably explains why this has remained a mystery until now. and so I suspect the lack or dysfunction of this protein is probably not a major cause of infertility in couples. a simple genetic screening test could help doctors provide them with the most appropriate treatment while avoiding wasteful expense and stress. said: "I think this is a very exciting paper.

com/science/2014/apr/16/fertility-mystery-solved- protein-discovered-joins-sperm-eggs . and perhaps most likely application."The second.theguardian. is whether scientists could devise drugs or vaccines that could block the way this protein works or how the sperm protein Izumo1 interacts with it. This could lead to a new and novel non- hormonal contraceptive for both humans and other species of mammals." http://www.