Movement of spermatocytes from the basal to the adluminal compartment of the rat testis



The progressive movement of primary spermatocytes from the basal to the adluminal compartment of the seminiferous tubule was studies after testes were fixed with standard and hypertonic solutions. In stages VI, VII and VIII of the cycle (classification of Leblond and Clermont, '52), preleptotene spermatocytes were observed within the basal compartment of the seminiferous tubule. Resting on the basal lamina, these cells were bound tightly to neighboring Sertoli cells by desmosome-like junctions. In late stage VIII and early stage IX, basal processes of Sertoli cells were observed between the newly formed leptotene cells and the basal lamina, and in stage IX, the Sertoli processes met to form a junction of the zonula adherens type. This junction formed a permeability barrier which restricted the free access of fixative into the spaces around leptotene cells. Evidence for this was found in the absence of the shrinkage artifact produced with hypertonic solutions in earlier stages. In longitudinal sections, the permeability barrier was first observed in an area of the tubule in which sperm release was also taking place. In mid- stage IX and in stage X, Sertoli-Sertoli junctional specializations formed de novo below the leptotene spermatocyte, while those from the preceding stages, present above the leptotene spermatocytes, remained intact. Thus, tight junctions were in evidence for a considerable period of the time, both above and below the leptotene spermatocytes. At no time in the process of germ cell movement toward the lumen did these cells exhibit evidence of amoeboid movement or lose desmosome-like contacts with the surrounding Sertoli cells.

From this study it is concluded that the Sertoli cells play an active role in the transfer of spermatocytes to the adluminal compartment. A transient intermediate compartment of the seminiferous tubule is described, one which allows for the continual maintenance of the blood-testis barrier during transit of spermatocytes from the basal to the adluminal compartment.