In endeavouring to understand the nature of sperm–oviduct interactions in mammals, attention was focused on experimental models in which fertilization can occur without a preliminary phase of sperm head binding to the isthmus epithelium. The ovarian endocrine milieu imposed on the oviduct tissues plays an important role in the binding phenomenon, although less so after the time of ovulation. Nonetheless, a sperm suspension introduced into the peritoneal cavity or surgical insemination directly into the oviduct ampulla before ovulation can result in fertilization, as can a surgical model in which the isthmus has been resected and the remaining portions of the duct reanastomosed. Mating or artificial insemination after ovulation in pigs permits rapid sperm transport to the site of fertilization, and the frequency of polyspermic penetration increases with the post-ovulatory age of eggs.
Strategies underlying sperm binding were considered, especially in terms of preovulatory sperm storage and suppression of full membranous maturation. These, in turn, raised the problem of how sperm binding in vitro to oviduct cells from prepuberal animals or to cells harvested during the luteal phase of the estrous cycle, or to cells from the ampulla or even the tracheal epithelium, can act to regulate sperm storage and maturation with precision. In an evolutionary perspective, preovulatory binding of diverse populations of cells to the endosalpinx may have developed as a form of fine tuning to assist in sperm selection, to synchronize completion of capacitation with the events of ovulation, and to promote monospermic fertilization by a controlled release of competent gametes.