Recombinant bovine zona pellucida glycoproteins ZP3 and ZP4 coexpressed in Sf9 cells form a sperm-binding active hetero-complex

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The zona pellucida (ZP) is a transparent envelope that surrounds the mammalian oocyte and mediates species-selective sperm–egg interactions. Porcine and bovine ZPs are composed of the glycoproteins ZP2, ZP3, and ZP4. We previously established an expression system for porcine ZP glycoproteins (ZPGs) using baculovirus in insect Sf9 cells. Here we established a similar method for expression of bovine ZPGs. The recombinant ZPGs were secreted into the medium and purified by metal-chelating column chromatography. A mixture of bovine recombinant ZP3 (rZP3) and rZP4 coexpressed in Sf9 cells exhibited inhibitory activity for bovine sperm–ZP binding similar to that of a native bovine ZPG mixture, whereas neither bovine rZP3 nor rZP4 inhibited binding. An immunoprecipitation assay revealed that the coexpressed rZP3/rZP4 formed a hetero-complex. We examined the functional domain structure of bovine rZP4 by constructing ZP4 mutants lacking the N-terminal domain or lacking both the N-terminal and trefoil domains. When either of these mutant proteins was coexpressed with bovine rZP3, the resulting mixtures exhibited inhibitory activity comparable to that of the bovine rZP3/rZP4 complex. Hetero-complexes of bovine rZP3 and porcine rZP4, or porcine rZP3 and bovine rZP4, also inhibited bovine sperm–ZP binding. Our results demonstrate that the N-terminal and trefoil domains of bovine rZP4 are dispensable for formation of the sperm-binding active bovine rZP3/rZP4 complex and, furthermore, that the molecular interactions between rZP3 and rZP4 are conserved in the bovine and porcine systems.

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