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Abstract

Segments and subsegments are the smallest unit of synchrony thus far described within longitudinal sections of seminiferous tubules. It is known that cells in a clone joined by intercellular bridges are at the same phase of development and are also thought to be units of synchrony. This study was designed to determine if it is possible that the synchrony seen in cells joined by intercellular bridges is the same as that cataloged along the long axis of the seminiferous tubule. In the present study, the maximum number of rat spermatids joined by intercellular bridges (a clone) was obtained. It was hypothesized that if the clone size were larger than the smallest known units of synchrony (segments or subsegments) in the long axis of the seminiferous tubule, then intercellular bridges would most likely govern the synchronous development of segments or subsegments (or finer subdivisions thereof). If the clone size is smaller than the number of cells present in a segment or subsegment, then other factors must govern synchrony in the longitudinal aspect of the tubule. In the determination of spermatid clone size, rat testes were injected with cytochalasin D which opens intercellular bridges of a spermatid clone to produce large symplasts. The number of nuclei in the symplasts was determined from serially sectioned tissue, by drawing nuclei with a camera-lucida, and by counting nuclei. After extensive examination of tubules, the number of spermatids found in the suspected five largest clones observed was determined to be 650, 607, 338, 240, and 177. The segment and subsegment length and the density of spermatids per given tubule length were determined from previously published data. The numbers of spermatids accommodated in the smallest segment and subsegment were 128 and 30, respectively. Our observations indicate that synchronous development of germ cells along the length of the tubule is controlled by intercellular bridges since the number of conjoined cells required to fill a segment or subsegment is more than the number of cells in the smallest arbitrarily identified units of synchrony cataloged to date.