Role of Sertoli cell number and function on regulation of spermatogenesis.
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Testicular function is under the control of expression and repression of several genes and gene products, and many of these works through Sertoli cells. The capability of Sertoli cells to regulate spermatogenesis is dependent on Sertoli cell functions and Sertoli cell number. Sertoli cell number has long been thought to be stable in adults with no proliferation of Sertoli cells once adult numbers have been reached. However, adult horses do not have stable Sertoli cell numbers, and new studies indicate that adult Sertoli cells can be made to re-enter mitotic phase under certain experimental conditions. This review discusses roles of Sertoli cells in regulation of spermatogenesis and methods for estimating the number of Sertoli cells, in a testis, that overcome the problems (assumptions) associated with the indented, pear-shaped of Sertoli cell nuclei which make it difficult to estimate the volume of individual nuclei. Using several approaches to overcome the problems associated with any one method, the horse is identified as a species in which Sertoli cell number is not fixed, but it fluctuates with season. In addition to Sertoli cell numbers, the functions of Sertoli cells that are very important in signaling and controlling spermatogenesis are discussed. Recent studies have shown that "post-mitotic terminally differentiated Sertoli cells" from adult animals could, under certain conditions, re-enter the cell division cycle. Can seasonal influences be a natural set of conditions to induce the Sertoli cells of the horse testis to seasonally re-enter the cell division cycle and explain the seasonal differences in Sertoli cell number as summarized in this review? Alternatively, can seasonal differences in Sertoli cell number reflect, in the horse to a greater extent, but in adults of most species, the presence of some mitotic-capable Sertoli cells in adults? In any case, both Sertoli cell number and function are important in regulation of spermatogenesis.