Fertilization in mammalian eggs is characterized by the presence of intracellular calcium ([Ca(2+)]i) oscillations. In mouse eggs, these oscillations cease after a variable period of time and this is accompanied by a decrease in inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP3R) responsiveness and down-regulation of the IP3R type 1 (IP3R-1). To investigate the signaling pathway responsible for inducing IP3R-1 down-regulation during fertilization, mouse eggs were exposed to or injected with several Ca(2+)-releasing agonists and the amounts of IP3R-1 immunoreactivity evaluated by Western blotting. Exposure to ethanol or ionomycin, which induce a single [Ca(2+)]i rise, failed to signal down-regulation of IP3R-1. However, [Ca(2+)]i oscillations induced by injection of boar sperm fractions (SF), which presumably stimulate production of IP3, or adenophostin A, an IP3R agonist, both induced down-regulation of IP3R-1 of a magnitude similar to or greater than that observed after fertilization. Exposure to thimerosal, an oxidizing agent that modifies the IP3R without stimulating production of IP3, also initiated down-regulation of IP3R-1, although oscillations initiated by SrCl(2) failed to evoke down-regulation of IP3R-1. The degradation of IP3R-1 in mouse eggs appears to be mediated by the proteasome pathway because it was inhibited by preincubation with lactacystin, a very specific proteasome inhibitor. We therefore suggest that persistent stimulation of the phosphoinositide pathway in mouse eggs by the sperm during fertilization or by injection of SF leads to down-regulation of the IP3R-1.