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Keywords:

  • excurrent ducts;
  • efferent ductules;
  • epididymis;
  • turtle

Abstract

The epididymis and efferent duct system of the turtle Chrysemys picta were examined. Seminiferous tubules are drained by a series of ducts that form a rete exterior to the tunica albuginea. The rete is located lateral to the testis and consists of anastamosing tubules of varying diameters, lined by a simple epithelium consisting of squamous to cuboidal cells. The rete is highly vascularized. A series of tubules (efferent ductules) connect the rete to the epididymis proper. The efferent ductules are highly convoluted, running between the epididymal tubules and are of varying diameters. The simple columnar epithelium lining these tubules possesses tight junctions, with every third or fourth cell possessing long cilia that protrude into the lumen. The cytoplasm of these epithelial cells contains abundant mitochondria. In the central portion of the efferent ductule, epithelial cells possess granules that appear to be secreted into the lumen by an apocrine process. The epididymis proper is a single, long, highly convoluted tubule that receives efferent ductules along its entire length. It is lined by a pseudostratified epithelium containing several cell types. The most abundant cell (vesicular cell) lacks cilia, but has a darkly staining apical border due to numerous small vesicles immediately beneath the luminal membrane. The small vesicles appear to fuse with each other basally to form larger vesicles. These cells appear to have an absorptive function, and occasionally sperm are embedded in their cytoplasm. The second-most abundant cell is a basal cell found along the basement membrane. The number of these cells fluctuates throughout the year, being most abundant in late summer and early fall. A small narrow cell with an oval nucleus and darkly staining cytoplasm, extending from the basement membrane to the apical surface, is present in small numbers, particularly in the caudal regions of the epididymis. This cell is frequently found in association with another narrow cell having a rounded nucleus and abundant mitochondria in its cytoplasm. J. Morphol. 261:312–322, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.