History, origin, and function of transzonal projections: the bridges of communication between the oocyte and its environment
Development and differentiation of a functional oocyte that following fertilization is able to give rise to a new individual requires continuous physical contact with the supporting somatic cells of the ovarian follicle. As the oocyte is surrounded by a thick extracellular coat, termed the zona pellucida, this essential contact is mediated through thin cytoplasmic filaments known as transzonal projections (TZPs) that project from the somatic granulosa cells adjacent to the oocyte and penetrate through the zona pellucida to reach the oocyte. Gap junctions assembled where the tips of the TZPs contact the oocyte plasma membrane, and other contact-dependent signaling may also occur at these sites. Here, I describe early studies of TZPs, which were first identified in the late 19th century, discuss their similarities with classical filopodia, review their structure and function, and compare two models that could account for their origin. Possible priorities and directions for future studies close this contribution.
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