Based on differences in light absorption the stages of the rat seminiferous epithelial wave were identified by a transillumination technique. The most marked difference was encountered in the boundary between stages VIII and IX where the mature spermatozoa are released into the tubular lumen. Other characteristic transitions were observed between stages VI and VII as well as stages XII and XIII. All stages could be divided into four major, easily recognizable zones. Within the zones the stages could be identified with an accuracy of ± 1 stage. The characteristic changes take place in the tubular center and are due to the development of the acrosome in the spermatid. The acrosome appears to contain material with a strong light absorption capacity.
Based on these observations a method was developed to isolate identified fragments of the rat seminiferous tubule in native condition. These fragments were used to quantify the activity of three previously described enzymes: specific tubular acid phosphatase III and IV as well as aminopeptidase III.
The tubular acid phosphatase IV showed a high activity in stages corresponding to the final maturation process of the spermatid, whereas acid phosphatase III was evenly active in the different stages. Also aminopeptidase III showed a peak of activity during stages V-VII coincident with that of acid phosphatase IV, The possible role of these enzymes in the morphological maturation of spermatid and the destruction of the residual body is discussed.