Organization Of The Seminiferous Tubule

Spermatogenesis occurs within the seminiferous tubules of the testes (Figs. 1 and 2). The intertubular area includes a vascular supply and testosterone-producing Leydig cells. A basement membrane surrounds each tubule with an outer layer of peritubular cells and a basal lamina. Within each tubule is an epithelial layer of Sertoli cells, somatic cells that provide physical and metabolic support for developing germ cells and regulate spermatogenesis. Intercellular junctions form near the base of adjacent Sertoli cells, further separating the tubule into basal and adluminal compartments and forming a blood testis barrier. This barrier segregates diploid and haploid germ cells, thus restricting access of antibodies and preventing autoimmunity due to haploid gene expression. Germ cells are confined to spaces between adjacent Sertoli cells such that the Sertoli cell membrane conforms to the shape of the developing germ cells much like pressing one's fingertips into the side of an inflated balloon.

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