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Epididymis epithelium

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Male Reproductive System Diagram (porcine) System

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Testis.  Each testis is composed of an exocrine part (seminiferous tubules) and an endocrine part (interstitial or Leydig cells).  The testis is divided into lobules by septa consisting of loose areolar connective tissue.  Several seminiferous tubules are found in each lobule, and interstitial cells are found in the connective tissue septa surrounding the seminiferous tubules.  The seminiferous tubules are the exocrine portion of the testis producing and "excreting" spermatozoa.   These tubules are lined by a stratified epithelium that consists of the developing spermatozoa and supporting cells (Sertoli cells).  View the image below at increasing magnification to see the structure of the seminiferous tubules and note the appearance of the stratified epithelium which lines them.

Point (do NOT click) cursor to magnification level:

  1.  + low power

  2.  ++

  3.  +++

  4.  ++++

  5.  +++++

  6.  ++++++ high power

Seminiferous tubules. The stratified epithelium of the seminiferous tubules is composed of different stages of developing sperm cells. Spermatogonia are stem cells located near the basement membrane of the tubule which proliferate by mitosis.  Some of the progeny cells differentiate into sperm and move away from the basement membrane toward the lumen of the tubule.  These differentiating cells first undergo meiosis then undergo a morphological  change to become spermatozoa.  Some of the progeny cells undergo mitosis again to produce more progeny cells providing a continuous source of stem cells for the production of spermatozoa. This entire process is described in more detail on the next page.

Examine the images below to see the following developing sperm cells: (1) spermatogonia, (2) primary spermatocytes, (3) secondary spermatocytes, (4) spermatids and (5) spermatozoa.  The third and fourth images also show Sertoli cells.

Point (do NOT click) cursor to slide title to view:

  1. Spermatogonia,
    Primary Spermatocytes,

  2. Primary Spermatocytes,
    Early Spermatids,

  3. Primary Spermatocytes,
    Secondary Spermatocytes,
    Sertoli Cells

  4. Spermatozoa,
    Sertoli Cells

Interstitium.  The interstitial tissue of the testis consists of loose areolar connective tissue containing numerous reticular fibers which serves to support the seminiferous tubules.  The interstitial cells (Leydig cells), located in this connective tissue, are responsible for the synthesis and secretion of the steroid hormone testosterone.  The following images show the appearance of the interstitium and Leydig cells in histological slides.

Point (do NOT click) cursor to slide title to view:

  1. Leydig cells - low power
  2. Leydig cells - high power

Quick checks (try these to check your understanding of the material on this page):

Which part of the testis excretes spermatozoa? 
     tunica albuginea
     seminiferous tubules
     Sertoli cells

Which part of the testis secretes testosterone?
     Sertoli cells
     Primary spermatocytes
     Leydig cells

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Problems? Content: Dr. Charlotte Ownby; Web Page operation: Betty Handlin
Copyright 1999 Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine
This page was last updated 10/19/07 11:04:05 AM