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Study of egg activation (PLCzeta) deficiency and its role in male infertility

At fertilisation (when a sperm and egg fuse), factors from the sperm cause the egg to begin dividing and developing. This is called egg activation. If there are problems with this process, then the sperm is unable to activate an egg or to fertilise the egg in an appropriate way, and thus fertilisation is unsuccessful. We believe that cases of fertilisation failure may be a result of egg activation problems. We also believe that abnormal sperm size or shape can cause problems with this process.

We want to investigate the particular protein factor, phospholipase C zeta (PLCzeta), found in sperm that is responsible for egg activation and how this protein interacts with other sperm proteins. Some types of male infertility may be due to defects in the structure or function of these. If we know more about these proteins, then we may be able to contribute to improvements in treatments for infertile patients in the future.

We ask men who have experienced fertilisation failure to consider donating sperm samples to this project. We also welcome donated samples from men who have fathered a child in the past as we would like their samples for a comparison (control).

This is an ongoing study in collaboration with a team at the University of Oxford.


Ginny Mounce
Oxford Fertility/University of Oxford


Start date: November 2010
Delivery date: February 2023


Dr Kevin Coward
University of Oxford

Celine Jones
University of Oxford

Caroline Ross
Oxford Fertility

Dr Karen Turner
Oxford Fertility

Prof. Tim Child
Oxford Fertility/University of Oxford

Dr Ginny Mounce
University of Oxford, Dept Women’s & Reproductive Health

- PI: Dr Kevin Coward, University of Oxford -

Failed fertilisation can be overcome by using artificial egg activating agents. However, in the UK, this is not recommended without evidence of PLCzeta deficiency in sperm.

Doctor holding treatment

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