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Cell Prolif. 1996 Jan;29(1):13-31.

Spontaneous germ cell death in the testis of the adult rat takes the form of apoptosis: re-evaluation of cell types that exhibit the ability to die during spermatogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Valladolid University School of Medicine, Spain.


Spontaneous germ cell degeneration occurs in the testis of the adult rat. Accumulating data supports the idea that this degeneration takes place via apoptosis. We have determined that morphology, acridine orange staining and ultrastructural features of these cell deaths clearly take the form of apoptosis. Furthermore, with acridine orange staining it was possible to detect a cell population showing early signs of death. The characterization of the main morphological features of these cells allowed us to identify several steps of maturing germ cells undergoing degeneration that have not previously been described. We have re-evaluated in toluidine blue stained semithin sections the germ cell types that undergo cell death at every stage of the spermatogenic cycle in the adult rat and concluded that, spermatogonia undergo cell death coinciding with their mitotic peaks, spermatocytes during preleptotene, leptotene, zygotene, pachytene and during metaphase I and spermatids during all their maturation steps. The biological significance of these cell deaths, at these steps of germ cell development, in relation to apoptosis, is discussed.

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