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Andrologia. 1992 Jul-Aug;24(4):183-96.

Morphology and functions of the human seminal vesicle.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Philipps University, Marburg, Germany.


The seminal vesicles originate in embryos of about 58 mm crown-rump-length from the Wolffian duct under the influence of testosterone. Along with the ampulla of the vas deferens and the ejaculatory duct, they form a functional unit that develops slowly until the onset of puberty. Developmental malformations occur as uni- or bilateral agenesis, aplasia, cysts, or ureterovesicular fistules. After puberty, the glands form sac-like structures which have a capacity of about 3.4-4.5 ccm and contribute about 70% of the seminal fluid. In addition to secretion, they are capable of reabsorption of fluids or dissolved substances, and of spermatophagy (ingestion and degradation of damaged spermatozoa by epithelial cells). Secretory activity of the glands is a measure of testosterone supplementation to the epithelium. Nervous regulation of secretion is realized by cholinergic post-ganglionic, sympathetic (and perhaps parasympathetic) fibres, derived from pelvic plexus. Contraction of the muscular wall occurs under the influence of excitatory adrenergic and modulatory NPY-encephalin-peptidergic nerve fibres. The secretory products of the seminal vesicles encompass (1) ions (K+: 1.1 mM ml-1) (2) low molecular weight substances (fructose: above 1.2 mg ml-1; prostaglandins above 250 microliters ml-1, (3) peptides (endorphin: 330 pg ml-1), and (4) proteins. In addition to plasma protein related forms such as transferrin, lactoferrin, and fibronectin, specific proteins such as semenogelin (52 kDa) are synthesized, the scaffold protein of semen coagulate forming the substrate for PSA (prostate specific antigen), sperm motility inhibitor (ca. 18 kDa), and others (placental protein 5, protein kinase inhibitor, carboanhydrase, 5'-nucleotidase), some of which are immunosuppressive. Therefore, functions of the seminal vesicles concern (a) formation of seminal coagulum, (b) modification of sperm functions (motility, capacitation), and (c) immunosuppression. Additional functions within the female genital system, perhaps during pre-implantation period, are likely, but remain to be proven experimentally.

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