Author(s): Kerr JB
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Abstract The ultrastructural features of the human testis are reviewed with emphasis upon the process of spermatogenesis and the cytology of the Leydig cells. The seminiferous epithelium is structurally partitioned by the Sertoli cells into basal and adluminal compartments via the specialized tight junctions between the Sertoli cells. Spermatogonia reside in the basal compartment, and, via a series of cell divisions, produce the primary spermatocytes, which at the commencement of their development move into the adluminal compartment, and thus the lengthy process of meiotic maturation is initiated. The fine structure of primary spermatocytes is described together with the complex transformation of the spermatids into spermatozoa during the process of spermiogenesis. Earlier studies of the organization of the human seminiferous epithelium showed that germ cells at different developmental stages formed identifiable collections termed cell associations or stages, but since several stages were seen in a single tubule cross-section, this gave the impression of an extremely irregular pattern of spermatogenic development. When the topographic arrangement of germ cells was re-examined with the aid of computer modelling, a highly ordered distribution was revealed, conforming to a helical pattern based on the geometry of spirals. Thus spermatogenesis in the human testis is subjected to a precise regulation in keeping with the ordered arrangement of the germ cells seen in other mammalian species. The intertubular tissue of the human testis is composed of loose connective tissue containing blood vessels, occasional lymph capillaries, macrophages, mast cells, and the Leydig cells which occur either as single cells or form small clusters. The Leydig cell cytoplasm contains an abundant supply of smooth endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria with tubular cristae, both features being characteristic of steroidogenic cells. Human Leydig cells contain large Reinke crystalloids of variable size and number, but their function remains obscure. The frequent occurrence of paracrystalline inclusions within the cytoplasm of the human Leydig cell suggests that these elements are precursors of the Reinke crystalloids.
This article was published in J Electron Microsc Tech
and referenced in Andrology-Open Access