Life and Medical Sciences
Cell & Developmental Biology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
Testes of mice with the recessive insertional mutation termed symplastic spermatids (sys) were assessed for structural and developmental abnormalities. Homozygous (sys/sys) males are infertile due to an abnormality in spermatogenesis leading to azoospermia. The major interruption to spermatogenesis occurs when the intercellular bridges that connect round spermatids open prematurely resulting in the formation of symplasts. Symplasts contain as many as 285 nuclei. Development of spermatids within symplasts is arrested just before, or just after, elongation of the spermatid nuclei begins. Symplasts degenerate and appear to be phagocytized by Sertoli cells and by intratubular macrophages. In addition, degeneration of young round spermatids and also spermatocytes occasionally is observed. Spermatocyte degeneration is substantial in some tubules and leaves them depleted of cells other than basal compartment cells. Sertoli cell abnormalities are prominent and include intracellular vacuolation, absence of apical processes surrounding round spermatids, degeneration, and occasional sloughing. Although reduplication and infolding of the basal lamina is also seen, this does not appear as a common phenomenon. The sys phenotype is first manifest in animals between 19 days and 22 days of age. Considerable variability is seen in testis histology of prepubertal animals; some display degenerating pachytene spermatocytes and virtually no Sertoli cell vacuoles, while others display vacuoles without apparent elevated numbers of degenerating spermatocytes. Although this study has not revealed the primary cell type(s) affected by the insertional inactivation event, it is possible that the abnormalities in the Sertoli cells are responsible for germ cell degeneration as it is generally recognized that deficits in the Sertoli cell can result in major germ cell abnormalities but not vice versa.
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