In this work, we have investigated the role of the sperm proteasome during in vitro fertilization (IVF) and gamete interaction in the mouse. Proteasome activity was measured in extract and intact sperm using a specific substrate. In addition, sperm were treated with specific proteasome inhibitors and evaluated during IVF, binding to the zona pellucida, and progesterone- and zona pellucida-induced acrosome reactions. In other experiments, sperm membrane proteins were obtained resuspending them in Triton X-114, shaking vigorously and let standing by 4 hr. Soluble sperm proteins were partitioned in the aqueous phase and sperm membrane proteins in the detergent phase. In both phases, proteasome activity was measured. Labeling of cell surface sperm proteins was carried out with the cell-impermeable NHS-LC biotin, extracted with Triton X-114, and mixing with avidin-agarose beads. Nonpermeabilized sperm were incubated with an anti-proteasome monoclonal antibody and evaluated by indirect immunofluorescence. The results indicate that sperm extracts as well as intact sperm had proteasome activity; the sperm proteasome was involved in IVF, specifically during sperm-zona pellucida binding and the acrosome reaction; soluble sperm membrane proteins exhibited proteasome activity; biotin experiments indicated the presence of proteasomes on the sperm surface, which was corroborated by indirect immunofluorescence experiments. All these observations indicate that the mouse sperm proteasome participates in the binding to the zona pellucida and the acrosome reaction and that there is a pool of proteasomes located on the sperm head.