What is the function of the acrosome? (A) It protects the haploid nucleus. (B) It helps the sperm to penetrate the egg. (C) It provides sugars for energy release in the mitochondria. (D) It releases alkali to neutralize acids in the vagina. Or (E) it detects chemicals to help the sperm find the egg.
The acrosome is a unique organelle that is found in the head of sperm cells in humans. You might remember that sperm cells have a very important job. They must locate and penetrate a mature ovum, or egg cell. This process is called fertilization, and it forms a cell called a zygote. If this occurs, the zygote may develop into an embryo, which can then implant in the uterus of the female.
The acrosome is especially important for the penetration of a mature ovum by a sperm cell. This can be a difficult task for a sperm cell, since mature ova contain three distinct layers. These include the corona radiata, shown here in blue; the zona pellucida, shown here in orange; and the plasma membrane, shown here in pink.
Sperm cells are at a disadvantage because of their size. The egg cell is many times larger than a sperm cell. Thankfully, the acrosome contains enzymes that when released will hydrolyze, or break down, the outer layers of the ovum. This helps the sperm to penetrate the egg, fuse with the plasma membrane, and complete the process of fertilization.
Now that we have reviewed some basics of fertilization and how the acrosome facilitates this process, we are able to select the correct answer. We now know that the function of the acrosome, and the correct answer to this question, is (B). It helps the sperm to penetrate the egg.