Testicular degeneration during spermatogenesis in the blue shark, Prionace glauca: Nonconformity with expression as seen in the diametric testes of other carcharhinids



The elasmobranch testis consists of spherical spermatocysts, each housing a single germ cell stage and its own clone of Sertoli cells. Because of the simple diametrical arrangement of cysts in maturational order, the testes of Squalus acanthias, Scyliorhinus canicula, and Prionace glauca are classified as the diametric shark testis type. The aim of this study was to document histologically the spermatocyst composition in the blue shark stage-by-stage and to establish whether the diametric testis type confers any uniformity regarding the expression of spermatogenesis in all sharks with this testis type. Analysis of the testes of blue sharks breeding in summer revealed extensive cyst degeneration of various forms and degrees, cyst shrinkage, and cyst disorganization with or without evidence of cell death, initially at the spermatogonia—spermatocyte transition but predominantly in spermatocyte and spermatid cysts. Animals could be grouped into two categories based on the major degenerative phenomena observed, namely those with extensive multinucleate cell (MNC) formation, and those with pronounced vacuolation in cysts. A major finding was the significant (P < 0.001) predominance of MNC formation and vacuolation in late-stage spermatogonial cysts in the respective categories of sharks. Spermatocyte cysts showed varying degrees of germ cell depletion, with or without evidence of degeneration. Normal-looking, but clearly subnormal-sized primary and secondary spermatocyte cysts with no evidence of degeneration were significantly the dominant spermatocyte cyst types in both categories. It is proposed that these subnormal-sized spermatocyte cysts could proceed into spermiogenesis. Because neighboring spermatid cysts lacked ordered bundling of spermatid heads (disorganized), a morphology significantly correlated with the vacuolation category of sharks, these results suggest that further progression into spermiogenesis was halted in such cysts. Thus, testicular degeneration in the diametric testis type is species specific in quantity and quality. J. Morphol., 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.