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Scientists find protein that lets egg and sperm hook up

Published on Apr 17, 2014 6:02 AM

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - You can forget about the birds and the bees. If you really want to learn how babies are made, you need to know about Juno and Izumo.

Fertilization takes place when an egg cell and a sperm cell recognise one another and fuse to form an embryo. But how they recognise each other in order to hook up had remained a mystery.

Researchers said on Wednesday they have identified a protein on the egg cell's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of a sperm cell, allowing the two cells to join.

This protein, dubbed Juno in honour of the ancient Roman goddess of fertility and marriage, and its counterpart in sperm, named Izumo after a Japanese marriage shrine, are essential for reproduction in mammals including people, they said.

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