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Anat Embryol (Berl). 1988;179(2):191-203.

An ultrastructural and morphometric analysis of the Sertoli cell during the spermatogenic cycle of the rat.

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Department of Anatomy, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.


The ultrastructure of Sertoli cells from selected stages of the spermatogenic cycle was assessed by morphometric analysis which showed significant changes in the morphological features of Sertoli cell cytoplasm at the commencement of the cycle (stage II) compared to the middle (stages VII-VIII) and the completion of the cycle (stages IX-XIV). Total volume and surface area of organelles (rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER), lysosomes, mitochondria and Golgi) exhibited stage-dependent and cyclic variations as did the total surface area of Sertoli cell plasma membrane. Polarization of cytoplasmic organelles to basal or columnar regions of the Sertoli cell, exhibited particularly by the Golgi, rough ER and lysosomes also showed marked cyclic fluctuations during the spermatogenic cycle. Rough and smooth ER exhibited the most dramatic stage-dependent changes in total volume and surface area the former being respectively largest and smallest in stages VII-VIII and XIII-XIV, the latter organelle presenting the reverse pattern in these two groups of stages. Similar stage-dependent alterations of lysosome volume and surface area were also noted, being maximal during stages XIII-XIV-II and reaching a nadir at stage VIII. Although the functional role of most Sertoli cell organelles and inclusions remain largely unknown, the present study suggests that the cyclic and stage-dependent variations in ultrastructure probably reflect major changes in Sertoli cell function necessary for the regulation of the spermatogenic cycle.

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