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Theriogenology. 1997 Nov;48(7):1199-216.

Factors affecting spermatogenesis in the stallion.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Public Health College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University College Station, Texas 77843, USA.


Spermatogenesis is a process of division and differentiation by which spermatozoa are produced in seminiferous tubules. Seminiferous tubules are composed of somatic cells (myoid cells and Sertoli cells) and germ cells (spermatogonia, spermatocytes, and spermatids). Activities of these three germ cells divide spermatogenesis into spermatocytogenesis, meiosis, and spermiogenesis, respectively. Spermatocytogenesis involves mitotic cell division to increase the yield of spermatogenesis and to produce stem cells and primary spermatocytes. Meiosis involves duplication and exchange of genetic material and two cell divisions that reduce the chromosome number to haploid and yield four spermatids. Spermiogenesis is the differentiation without division of spherical spermatids into mature spermatids which are released from the luminal free surface as spermatozoa. The spermatogenic cycle (12.2 days in the horse) is superimposed on the three major divisions of spermatogenesis which takes 57 days. Spermatogenesis and germ cell degeneration can be quantified from numbers of germ cells in various steps of development throughout spermatogenesis, and quantitative measures are related to number of spermatozoa in the ejaculate. Germ cell degeneration occurs throughout spermatogenesis; however, the greatest seasonal impact on horses occurs during spermatocytogenesis. Daily spermatozoan production is related to the amount of germ cell degeneration, pubertal development, season of the year, and aging. Number of Sertoli cells and amount of smooth endoplasmic reticulum of Leydig cells and Leydig cell number are related to spermatozoan production. Seminiferous epithelium is sensitive to elevated temperature, dietary deficiencies, androgenic drugs (anabolic steroids), metals (cadmium and lead), x-ray exposure, dioxin, alcohol, and infectious diseases. However, these different factors may elicit the same temporary or permanent response in that degenerating germ cells become more common, multinucleate giant germ cells form by coalescence of spermatocytes or spermatids, the ratio of germ cells to Sertoli cells is reduced, and spermatozoan production is adversely affected. In short, spermatogenesis involves both mitotic and meiotic cell divisions and an unsurpassed example of cell differentiation in the production of the spermatozoon. Several extrinsic factors can influence spermatogenesis to cause a similar degenerative response of the seminiferous epithelium and reduce fertility of stallions.

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