Ultrastructural studies of the morphological variations of the egg surface and envelopes of the African catfish Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822) before and after fertilisation with a discussion of fertilisation mechanism
Keywords:ultrastructure, egg envelops, micropyle, African catfish, chorion proteins
Much of the existing knowledge of the mechanisms involved in teleost fertilisation is based on a few small model species that have no commercial value. Research is therefore urgently required to address mechanisms involved in fertilisation in species of great commercial value. In this study, the ultrastructural morphological variations in the surface of the egg of Clarias gariepinus were recorded before and after fertilisation by using electron microscopy. The outer surface of the unfertilised egg was smooth, whereas the fertilised egg acquired a network of projections on the vegetal hemisphere. Moreover, different patterns of ornamentation on the egg surface were evident. This pattern of ornamentation varied with the progress of embryonic development. The micropyle of the C. gariepinus egg consisted of a funnel-shaped vestibule, from the bottom of which a cylindrical micropylar canal extended. The micropylar canal decreased in diameter after completion of fertilisation, forming a micropylar disc. The sperm behaviour on the egg surface was oriented towards any depression on the chorion surface. The chorion of ovulated eggs consisted of one layer. After fertilisation the chorion was differentiated into three layers: the double-layered coat, the zona radiata externa and the zona radiata interna. Four protein subunits of the chorion of C. gariepinus were identified by SDS-PAGE. IR-spectra obtained from C. gariepinus chorion revealed that the vibration of chorion proteins exhibited different weak activities in the IR-spectra with minor difference between pre- and post-fertilisation chorion proteins.
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