Cell Divisions During Spermatogenesis

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Prostate gland

Erectile tissue


Glans penis

Large Glans Deferens

-Testicular artery -Vas deferens

-Efferent ductules

-Body of epididymis

- Rete testis

Tail of epididymis

Seminiferous^-^ tubules

Urinary bladder


-Seminal vesicle -Ejaculatory duct

-Bulbourethral gland

Vas deferens Epididymis

Seminiferous tubules

-Testicular artery -Vas deferens

-Efferent ductules

-Body of epididymis

- Rete testis

Tail of epididymis

Figure 80-1

A, Male reproduction system. (Modified from Bloom V, Fawcett DW: Textbook of Histology, 10th ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co, 1975.) B, Internal structure of the testis and relation of the testis to the epididymis. (Redrawn from Guyton AC: Anatomy and Physiology. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing, 1985.)

Cross Sectional Seminiferous Tubules
A, Cross section of a seminiferous tubule. B, Stages in the development of sperm from spermatogonia.

the father, while the other half are derived from the oocyte provided by the mother.

The entire period of spermatogenesis, from spermatogonia to spermatozoa, takes about 74 days.

cells are very large, with overflowing cytoplasmic envelopes that surround the developing spermatogo-nia all the way to the central lumen of the tubule.

Meiosis. Spermatogonia that cross the barrier into the Sertoli cell layer become progressively modified and enlarged to form large primary spermatocytes (Figure 80-3). Each of these, in turn, undergoes meiotic division to form two secondary spermatocytes. After another few days, these too divide to form spermatids that are eventually modified to become spermatozoa (sperm).

During the change from the spermatocyte stage to the spermatid stage, the 46 chromosomes (23 pairs of chromosomes) of the spermatocyte are divided, so that 23 chromosomes go to one spermatid and the other 23 to the second spermatid. This also divides the chromosomal genes so that only one half of the genetic characteristics of the eventual fetus are provided by

Sex Chromosomes. In each spermatogonium, one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes carries the genetic information that determines the sex of each eventual offspring. This pair is composed of one X chromosome, which is called the female chromosome, and one Y chromosome, the male chromosome. During meiotic division, the male Y chromosome goes to one spermatid that then becomes a male sperm, and the female X chromosome goes to another spermatid that becomes a female sperm. The sex of the eventual offspring is determined by which of these two types of sperm fertilizes the ovum. This is discussed further in Chapter 82.

Formation of Sperm. When the spermatids are first formed, they still have the usual characteristics of epithelioid cells, but soon they begin to differentiate and elongate into spermatozoa. As shown in Figure 80-4, each spermatozoon is composed of a head and a

Primordial Spermatogonia

Cell divisions during spermatogenesis. During embryonic development the primordial germ cells migrate to the testis where they become spermatogonia. At puberty (usually 12 to14 years after birth), the spermatogonia proliferate rapidly by mitosis. Some begin meiosis to become primary spermatocytes and continue through meiotic division I to become secondary spermato-cytes. After completion of meiotic division II, the secondary spermatocytes produce spermatids, which differentiate to form spermatozoa.

Cell divisions during spermatogenesis. During embryonic development the primordial germ cells migrate to the testis where they become spermatogonia. At puberty (usually 12 to14 years after birth), the spermatogonia proliferate rapidly by mitosis. Some begin meiosis to become primary spermatocytes and continue through meiotic division I to become secondary spermato-cytes. After completion of meiotic division II, the secondary spermatocytes produce spermatids, which differentiate to form spermatozoa.

Primary And Secondary Spermatocytes

Figure 80-4

Structure of the human spermatozoon.

Figure 80-4

Structure of the human spermatozoon.

hyaluronidase (which can digest proteoglycan filaments of tissues) and powerful proteolytic enzymes (which can digest proteins). These enzymes play important roles in allowing the sperm to enter the ovum and fertilize it.

The tail of the sperm, called the flagellum, has three major components: (1) a central skeleton constructed of 1l microtubules, collectively called the axoneme— the structure of this is similar to that of cilia found on the surfaces of other types of cells described in Chapter 2; (2) a thin cell membrane covering the axoneme; and (3) a collection of mitochondria surrounding the axoneme in the proximal portion of the tail (called the body of the tail).

Back-and-forth movement of the tail (flagellar movement) provides motility for the sperm. This movement results from a rhythmical longitudinal sliding motion between the anterior and posterior tubules that make up the axoneme. The energy for this process is supplied in the form of adenosine triphos-phate that is synthesized by the mitochondria in the body of the tail.

Normal sperm move in a fluid medium at a velocity of 1 to 4 mm/min. This allows them to move through the female genital tract in quest of the ovum.

tail. The head comprises the condensed nucleus of the cell with only a thin cytoplasmic and cell membrane layer around its surface. On the outside of the anterior two thirds of the head is a thick cap called the acro-some that is formed mainly from the Golgi apparatus. This contains a number of enzymes similar to those found in lysosomes of the typical cell, including

Hormonal Factors That Stimulate Spermatogenesis

We shall discuss the role of hormones in reproduction later, but at this point, let us note that several hormones play essential roles in spermatogenesis. Some of these are as follows:

1. Testosterone, secreted by the Leydig cells located in the interstitium of the testis, is essential for growth and division of the testicular germinal cells, which is the first stage in forming sperm.

2. Luteinizing hormone, secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, stimulates the Leydig cells to secrete testosterone.

3. Follicle-stimulating hormone, also secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, stimulates the Sertoli cells; without this stimulation, the conversion of the spermatids to sperm (the process of spermiogenesis) will not occur.

4. Estrogens, formed from testosterone by the Sertoli cells when they are stimulated by follicle-stimulating hormone, are probably also essential for spermiogenesis.

5. Growth hormone (as well as most of the other body hormones) is necessary for controlling background metabolic functions of the testes. Growth hormone specifically promotes early division of the spermatogonia themselves; in its absence, as in pituitary dwarfs, spermatogenesis is severely deficient or absent, thus causing infertility.

Maturation of Sperm in the Epididymis

After formation in the seminiferous tubules, the sperm require several days to pass through the 6-meter-long tubule of the epididymis. Sperm removed from the seminiferous tubules and from the early portions of the epididymis are nonmotile, and they cannot fertilize an ovum. However, after the sperm have been in the epididymis for some 18 to 24 hours, they develop the capability of motility, even though several inhibitory proteins in the epididymal fluid still prevent final motility until after ejaculation.

Storage of Sperm. The two testes of the human adult form up to 120 million sperm each day. A small quantity of these can be stored in the epididymis, but most are stored in the vas deferens. They can remain stored, maintaining their fertility, for at least a month. During this time, they are kept in a deeply suppressed inactive state by multiple inhibitory substances in the secretions of the ducts. Conversely, with a high level of sexual activity and ejaculations, storage may be no longer than a few days.

After ejaculation, the sperm become motile, and they also become capable of fertilizing the ovum, a process called maturation. The Sertoli cells and the epithelium of the epididymis secrete a special nutrient fluid that is ejaculated along with the sperm. This fluid contains hormones (including both testosterone and estrogens), enzymes, and special nutrients that are essential for sperm maturation.

Physiology of the Mature Sperm. The normal motile, fertile sperm are capable of flagellated movement though the fluid medium at velocities of 1 to 4 mm/min. The activity of sperm is greatly enhanced in a neutral and slightly alkaline medium, as exists in the ejaculated semen, but it is greatly depressed in a mildly acidic medium. A strong acidic medium can cause rapid death of sperm.

The activity of sperm increases markedly with increasing temperature, but so does the rate of metabolism, causing the life of the sperm to be considerably shortened. Although sperm can live for many weeks in the suppressed state in the genital ducts of the testes, life expectancy of ejaculated sperm in the female genital tract is only 1 to 2 days.

Function of the Seminal Vesicles

Each seminal vesicle is a tortuous, loculated tube lined with a secretory epithelium that secretes a mucoid material containing an abundance of fructose, citric acid, and other nutrient substances, as well as large quantities of prostaglandins and fibrinogen. During the process of emission and ejaculation, each seminal vesicle empties its contents into the ejacula-tory duct shortly after the vas deferens empties the sperm. This adds greatly to the bulk of the ejaculated semen, and the fructose and other substances in the seminal fluid are of considerable nutrient value for the ejaculated sperm until one of the sperm fertilizes the ovum.

Prostaglandins are believed to aid fertilization in two ways: (1) by reacting with the female cervical mucus to make it more receptive to sperm movement and (2) by possibly causing backward, reverse peristaltic contractions in the uterus and fallopian tubes to move the ejaculated sperm toward the ovaries (a few sperm reach the upper ends of the fallopian tubes within 5 minutes).

Function of the Prostate Gland

The prostate gland secretes a thin, milky fluid that contains calcium, citrate ion, phosphate ion, a clotting enzyme, and a profibrinolysin. During emission, the capsule of the prostate gland contracts simultaneously with the contractions of the vas deferens so that the thin, milky fluid of the prostate gland adds further to the bulk of the semen. A slightly alkaline characteristic of the prostatic fluid may be quite important for successful fertilization of the ovum, because the fluid of the vas deferens is relatively acidic owing to the presence of citric acid and metabolic end products of the sperm and, consequently, helps to inhibit sperm fertility. Also, the vaginal secretions of the female are acidic (pH of 3.5 to 4.0). Sperm do not become optimally motile until the pH of the surrounding fluids rises to about 6.0 to 6.5. Consequently, it is probable that the slightly alkaline prostatic fluid helps to neutralize the acidity of the other seminal fluids during ejaculation, and thus enhances the motility and fertility of the sperm.


Semen, which is ejaculated during the male sexual act, is composed of the fluid and sperm from the vas deferens (about 10 per cent of the total), fluid from the seminal vesicles (almost 60 per cent), fluid from the prostate gland (about 30 per cent), and small amounts from the mucous glands, especially the bulbourethral glands. Thus, the bulk of the semen is seminal vesicle fluid, which is the last to be ejaculated and serves to wash the sperm through the ejaculatory duct and urethra.

The average pH of the combined semen is about 7.5, the alkaline prostatic fluid having more than neutralized the mild acidity of the other portions of the semen. The prostatic fluid gives the semen a milky appearance, and fluid from the seminal vesicles and mucous glands gives the semen a mucoid consistency. Also, a clotting enzyme from the prostatic fluid causes the fibrinogen of the seminal vesicle fluid to form a weak fibrin coagulum that holds the semen in the deeper regions of the vagina where the uterine cervix lies. The coagulum then dissolves during the next 15 to 30 minutes because of lysis by fibrinolysin formed from the prostatic profibrinolysin. In the early minutes after ejaculation, the sperm remain relatively immobile, possibly because of the viscosity of the coagulum. As the coagulum dissolves, the sperm simultaneously become highly motile.

Although sperm can live for many weeks in the male genital ducts, once they are ejaculated in the semen, their maximal life span is only 24 to 48 hours at body temperature. At lowered temperatures, however, semen can be stored for several weeks, and when frozen at temperatures below -100°C, sperm have been preserved for years.

"Capacitation" of the Spermatozoa—Making It Possible for Them to Penetrate the Ovum

Although spermatozoa are said to be "mature" when they leave the epididymis, their activity is held in check by multiple inhibitory factors secreted by the genital duct epithelia. Therefore, when they are first expelled in the semen, they are unable to perform their duties in fertilizing the ovum. However, on coming in contact with the fluids of the female genital tract, multiple changes occur that activate the sperm for the final processes of fertilization. These collective changes are called capacitation of the spermatozoa. This normally requires from 1 to 10 hours. Some changes that are believed to occur are the following:

1. The uterine and fallopian tube fluids wash away the various inhibitory factors that suppress sperm activity in the male genital ducts.

2. While the spermatozoa remain in the fluid of the male genital ducts, they are continually exposed to many floating vesicles from the seminiferous tubules containing large amounts of cholesterol. This cholesterol is continually added to the cellular membrane covering the sperm acrosome, toughening this membrane and preventing release of its enzymes. After ejaculation, the sperm deposited in the vagina swim away from the cholesterol vesicles upward into the uterine cavity, and they gradually lose much of their other excess cholesterol over the next few hours. In so doing, the membrane at the head of the sperm (the acrosome) becomes much weaker. 3. The membrane of the sperm also becomes much more permeable to calcium ions, so that calcium now enters the sperm in abundance and changes the activity of the flagellum, giving it a powerful whiplash motion in contrast to its previously weak undulating motion. In addition, the calcium ions cause changes in the cellular membrane that covers the leading edge of the acrosome, making it possible for the acrosome to release its enzymes rapidly and easily as the sperm penetrates the granulosa cell mass surrounding the ovum, and even more so as it attempts to penetrate the zona pellucida of the ovum itself. Thus, multiple changes occur during the process of capacitation. Without these, the sperm cannot make its way to the interior of the ovum to cause fertilization.

Acrosome Enzymes, the "Acrosome Reaction," and Penetration of the Ovum

Stored in the acrosome of the sperm are large quantities of hyaluronidase and proteolytic enzymes. Hyaluronidase depolymerizes the hyaluronic acid polymers in the intercellular cement that hold the ovarian granulosa cells together. The proteolytic enzymes digest proteins in the structural elements of tissue cells that still adhere to the ovum.

When the ovum is expelled from the ovarian follicle into the fallopian tube, it still carries with it multiple layers of granulosa cells. Before a sperm can fertilize the ovum, it must dissolute these granulosa cell layers, and then it must penetrate though the thick covering of the ovum itself, the zona pellucida. To achieve this, the stored enzymes in the acrosome begin to be released. It is believed that the hyaluronidase among these enzymes is especially important in opening pathways between the granulosa cells so that the sperm can reach the ovum.

When the sperm reaches the zona pellucida of the ovum, the anterior membrane of the sperm itself binds specifically with receptor proteins in the zona pellu-cida. Then, rapidly, the entire acrosome dissolves, and all the acrosomal enzymes are released. Within minutes, these enzymes open a penetrating pathway for passage of the sperm head through the zona pel-lucida to the inside of the ovum. Within another 30 minutes, the cell membranes of the sperm head and of the oocyte fuse with each other to form a single cell. At the same time, the genetic material of the sperm and the oocyte combine to form a completely new cell genome, containing equal numbers of chromosomes and genes from mother and father. This is the process of fertilization; then the embryo begins to develop, as discussed in Chapter 82.

Why Does Only One Sperm Enter the Oocyte? With as many sperm as there are, why does only one enter the oocyte? The reason is not entirely known, but within a few minutes after the first sperm penetrates the zona pellucida of the ovum, calcium ions diffuse inward through the oocyte membrane and cause multiple cortical granules to be released by exocytosis from the oocyte into the perivitelline space. These granules contain substances that permeate all portions of the zona pellucida and prevent binding of additional sperm, and they even cause any sperm that have already begun to bind to fall off. Thus, almost never does more than one sperm enter the oocyte during fertilization.

Abnormal Spermatogenesis and Male Fertility

The seminiferous tubular epithelium can be destroyed by a number of diseases. For instance, bilateral orchitis of the testes resulting from mumps causes sterility in some affected males. Also, some male infants are born with degenerate tubular epithelia as a result of strictures in the genital ducts or other abnormalities. Finally, another cause of sterility, usually temporary, is excessive temperature of the testes.

O op

Figure 80-5

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Once your pregnancy is over and done with, your baby is happily in your arms, and youre headed back home from the hospital, youll begin to realize that things have only just begun. Over the next few days, weeks, and months, youre going to increasingly notice that your entire life has changed in more ways than you could ever imagine.

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  • Degna Cocci
    Which hormone stimulate mitotic division in spermatozoa at puberty?
    4 years ago
  • ONNI
    What a collective name for vas defrence,epididyms and seminiferous tubules or testis?
    2 years ago

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