Zona Pellucida Proteins, Fibrils, and Matrix

Eveline S. Litscher, Paul M. Wassarman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The zona pellucida (ZP) is an extracellular matrix that surrounds all mammalian oocytes, eggs, and early embryos and plays vital roles during oogenesis, fertilization, and preimplantation development. The ZP is composed of three or four glycosylated proteins, ZP1-4, that are synthesized, processed, secreted, and assembled into long, cross-linked fibrils by growing oocytes. ZP proteins have an immunoglobulin-like three-dimensional structure and a ZP domain that consists of two subdomains, ZP-N and ZP-C, with ZP-N of ZP2 and ZP3 required for fibril assembly. A ZP2-ZP3 dimer is located periodically along ZP fibrils that are cross-linked by ZP1, a protein with a proline-rich N terminus. Fibrils in the inner and outer regions of the ZP are oriented perpendicular and parallel to the oolemma, respectively, giving the ZP a multilayered appearance. Upon fertilization of eggs, modification of ZP2 and ZP3 results in changes in the ZP's physical and biological properties that have important consequences. Certain structural features of ZP proteins suggest that they may be amyloid-like proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-715
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Biochemistry
StatePublished - 20 Jun 2020


  • Ig-like fold
  • Mammalian eggs
  • ZPD proteins
  • amyloids
  • fbrils
  • matrix
  • zona pellucida


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