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Abstract

Desmosome-like junctions between Sertoli cells and germ cells (spermatogonia, spermatocytes and non-elongate spermatids) were observed in the adult rat testis. At all levels, certain features were characteristic of this relationship, the most prominent being a densification of the subsurface aspect of the plasma membranes of each cell. The Sertoli cell counterpart demonstrated an abundance of cytoplasmic fibrils which converged on the density, but no such feature was evident in the germ cell counterpart. The width of the intercellular space was variable, ranging in some regions from approximately 3–5 nm, to other regions of approximately 14–18 nm, the latter being representative of most areas of contact. A poorly represented, and often discontinous, intermediate dense line was observed in the intercellular space. Hypertonic fixative solutions containing dextrose were utilized to provoke tissue shrinkage and exaggeration of the intercellular space within the basal compartment of the testis. Cell separation was evident over most regions of the cells, except where desmosome-like contacts were present. Forces transmitted from one cell to another at desmosome-like contacts resulted in tearing of cellular fragments, while junctional regions of both cells remained intact. These observations indicate that desmosome-like junctions are strong adhesive sites between germ cells and Sertoli cells.