Fertilization occurs when sperm and egg recognize each other and fuse to form a new, genetically distinct organism. The molecular basis of sperm-egg recognition is unknown, but is likely to require interactions between receptor proteins displayed on their surface. Izumo1 is an essential sperm cell-surface protein, but its receptor on the egg has not been described. Here we identify folate receptor 4 (Folr4) as the receptor for Izumo1 on the mouse egg, and propose to rename it Juno. We show that the Izumo1-Juno interaction is conserved within several mammalian species, including humans. Female mice lacking Juno are infertile and Juno-deficient eggs do not fuse with normal sperm. Rapid shedding of Juno from the oolemma after fertilization suggests a mechanism for the membrane block to polyspermy, ensuring eggs normally fuse with just a single sperm. Our discovery of an essential receptor pair at the nexus of conception provides opportunities for the rational development of new fertility treatments and contraceptives.
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