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B12 SCIENCE 10 – BIOLOGY Optional Reflection Paper

LAZO, Crisandro Allen R. 10 | EINSTEIN

FERTILIZATION

It is important for a living organism to procreate for the continuation of its own
species. One way to pass genetic material is through asexual reproduction however,
there is a lack of genetic variability here since the same DNA is passed on to the
offspring. Some bacteria may overcome this through bacterial conjugation of
transformation however, we lack plasmids and so evolution provided us with a different
mechanism to lead to a more diverse gene pool. This mechanism is sexual reproduction
which allows the release of sperm into the female reproductive system, enabling it to
fertilize the egg cell and combine the two genetic materials of the different organisms
leading to greater variability. The key process here is fertilization.
Fertilization, in a nutshell, is the fusion of the male sperm cell and female egg cell
but this seemingly simple process involves different interactions of the hypothalamic-
pituitary-gonadal axis. First, the hypothalamus will release Gonadotropin-Releasing
Hormone which will cause the production of Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) in the
Anterior Pituitary Gland. In females, FSH will initiate the development of an ovum in the
corpus luteum. This helps in the maturation of the ovum which will allow the oogonium
inside to finish one meiotic division. Meanwhile FSH and testosterone also help in the
maturation of sperm cells in the male. During sexual intercourse, the sperm will travel
from the penis into the vagina and will continue until it reaches the egg cell (the sperm
find their way through positive chemotaxis – movement to a stimulus). When the sperm
reaches the egg, they must be capacitated first in order to release hydrolytic enzymes
which will help them get through the egg cell’s zona pellucida where the sperm must
bind to a receptor which will crosslink with a specific molecule in the sperm. This
crosslinking of the receptor in the egg cell with a specific protein in the sperm triggers
the acrosomal reaction wherein the sperm and egg’s calcium channels become open
causing an influx of calcium ions. This changes the cytosolic concentration of calcium
ions in the egg cell and this “activates” the egg cell’s processes especially its
metabolism and the formation of the fertilization envelope. The formation of the
fertilization envelope happens as the cortical granules in the egg cell is released which
will breakdown the glycoproteins of the zona pellucida and hardening it thus forming the
said barrier which blocks other sperm thus preventing polyspermy (fertilization of an egg
cell with multiple sperm cells). The influx of calcium ions also changes the charge of the
cells and it allows the fusion of the cell membrane of the two gametes. After fusing, the
sperm cell’s DNA form the ‘male pronucleus’ while the egg cell starts to finish its
Meiosis II and then forms the female pronucleus which will join to form a nucleus with a
diploid number of chromosomes. This is now what is called a zygote and will proceed to
become a morula, blastula, until it becomes a fetus and develop into a whole human.
As we know, the process of fertilization is a very intricate process which requires
specific signals from the brain through hormones and through environmental cues.
Moreover, this complexity may seem like something that just happened but in actuality,
it took millions of years for this process to be developed and optimized for humans and
other mammals. Overall, we can observe that fertilization in a physiological and
biochemical standpoint is somewhat difficult to wrap our heads around at first but this
just proves that the human body isn’t taking any chances rather, it wishes to procreate
with a full success rate for the continuation of its species.
B12 SCIENCE 10 – BIOLOGY Optional Reflection Paper
LAZO, Crisandro Allen R. 10 | EINSTEIN

OVULATION AND THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE


In a biological viewpoint, the menstrual cycle is an important milestone in the
development of an anatomical female for it shows the capability of a female to produce
a mature ovum which is needed for the continuation of its species through sexual
reproduction. This cycle of maturing of an ovum and preparing the endometrial lining,
waiting to be fertilized in the fallopian tube (usually ending in failure unless the ovum is
fertilized by a sperm), and shedding the prepared lining is what we call the menstrual
cycle and this is just as important as fertilization itself for producing offspring.
The first part of the cycle, the proliferative or the follicular phase, is initiated by
the release of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone from the hypothalamus onto the
pituitary gland. This in turn causes the pituitary gland to release Follicle Stimulating
Hormone which will travel through blood and into the ovaries of the female. In the
ovaries, ova that have reached a certain level of development will be the ones that will
respond to FSH with even further growth. After secreting FSH, the pituitary gland also
secretes luteinizing hormone which initiates the start of oogenesis in an oogonium by
breaking the dictyate meiotic block. Once the oogonium has undergone Meiosis I, one
of the daughter cells while the other becomes the polar body and at this stage, the egg
will be ovulated. While this is happening, FSH also stimulates granulosa cells in the
ovary and these produce estrogen which causes the endometrium of the uterus to be
enriched with blood, and causes the hypothalamus to secrete GnRH. Estrogen also
causes the mucus membrane of the cervix to be thinned which will enable sperm cells
to easily pass through and reach the fallopian tube much more easily for fertilization to
occur. On day 10, estrogen rises sharply and LH also peaks and within 10 -12h of
gonadotropin peak in the body, the oocyte is finally ovulated by causing an increase in
follicular pressure and degradation of the follicle wall. After ovulation, the luteal phase
begins turning the follicle cells to turn into the corpus luteum which secretes minimal
amounts of estrogen but high amounts of progesterone which allows the uterus to
thicken and be enriched with blood cells for blastocyst implantation. If the ovum is not
fertilized, then the corpus luteum eventually degrades causing blood progesterone
levels to lower and thus leading to the shedding of the uterine endometrial lining which
is what we call, menstruation. After this, the cycle is renewed and prepared the body
again for a possible fertilization. If the ovum is fertilized however, the zygote will divided
into a 32-cells structure known as the morula and will divide once more into a blastocyst
with trophoblast cells at the outer lining. These trophoblast cells produce a hormone
known as luteotropin which prevents the corpus luteum from degrading and keeps it
active. This keeps progesterone levels high thus the endometrial lining is not shed and
this allows a blastocyst to be implanted and develop into a full human being.
Like fertilization, the menstrual cycle is the product of the interaction between
multiple hormones which are signaled by multiple factors. The menstrual cycle is also
as vital for sexual reproduction as fertilization itself as the menstrual cycle is the pillar,
the support for fertilization even though it is not always recognized by many. Moreover,
this cycle is an important evolutionary leap which allows organisms to ensure that their
offsprings can be produced in order for a species to continue. Without the menstrual
cycle, offspring will not be able to develop in the womb and mammals may not be
mostly womb-bearing rather, they may be like platypuses which is an egg-laying
mammal.