Epithelial cells of the epididymis show regional variations with respect to the secretion or endocytosis of immobilin as revealed by light and electron microscope immunocytochemistry

Authors

  • Dr. L. Hermo,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Study of Reproduction, Departments of Anatomy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
    • Department of Anatomy, McGill University, 3640 University Street. Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2B2
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  • R. Oko,

    1. Center for Study of Reproduction, Departments of Anatomy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
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  • B. Robaire

    1. Center for Study of Reproduction, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
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Abstract

The localization of immobilin, a glycoprotein known to be present and to immobilize spermatozoa in the lumen of the epididymis, was investigated using light and electron microscope immunocytochemistry. In the light microscope, a distinct immunoperoxidase reaction product was observed in the lumen over the brush border of the epithelial nonciliated cells of the efferent ducts, while only a faint reaction was seen over their supranuclear region. In the proximal area of the initial segment of the epididymis no immunoperoxidase staining was observed either over epithelial cells or in the lumen. In the middle area of the initial segment, several epithelial principal cells became intensely immunostained but the majority were unstained; a weak reaction appeared in the lumen. In the distal area of the initial segment, more principal cells became immunostained, and while some were intensely reactive, others were moderately or weakly stained or unreactive. In the intermediate zone and proximal caput epididymidis, the principal cells showed the maximal immunoreactivity with all principal cells being reactive; staining in the lumen also reached its maximal reactivity in these areas. Immunostaining of principal cells gradually decreased along the epididymal duct and disappeared in the cauda epididymidis, however, an intense reaction persisted in the lumen. In the distal area of the cauda epididymidis, clear cells were reactive. In the electron microscope, immunogold labeling of reactive principal cells of the middle and distal areas of the initial segment, intermediate zone, and caput epididymidis was detected over cisternae of endoplasmic reticulum, stacks of Golgi saccules, and spherical electron lucent (200–400 nm in diameter) vesicles. The latter were present on the trans face of the Golgi stack, in the vicinity of the Golgi apparatus, and close to the apical cell surface; they are considered as secretory vesicles involved in the secretion of immobilin. In the distal area of the cauda epididymidis, epithelial clear cells showed an intense immunogold labeling over their endocytic apparatus. Immunogold labeling in the lumen of the epididymis was found over a fine flocculent material dispersed between the sperm. This material was especially abundant in the cauda epididymidis and did not appear to be bound to the surface of the sperm. The present results suggest that principal cells of the epididymis are involved in the secretion of immobilin, but that a differential secretory pattern exists between epididymal segments with maximal secretory activity occurring in the intermediate zone and proximal caput epididymidis, while no secretion takes place in the cauda epididymidis. Excess immobilin appears to be endocytosed for degradation by clear cells of the cauda epididymidis.

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