Spermatogenesis and Germ Cell Death

  • A. P. Sinha Hikim
  • Y. H. Lue
  • C. Wang
  • R. S. Swerdloff
Part of the Mineralogical Society Series book series (ENDO, volume 5)


The ability to produce functional gametes is essential for the survival of a species. Spermatogenesis is a dynamic process in which stem spermatogonia, through a series of events become mature spermatozoa and occurs continuously during the reproductive lifetime of the individual (Russell et al, 1990; Sharpe, 1994). Stem spermatoginia undergo mitosis to produce two types of cells: additional stem cells and differentiating spermatogonia which undergo rapid and successive mitotic divisions to form primary spermatocytes. The spermatocytes then enter a lengthy meiotic phase as preleptotene spermatocytes and proceed through two cell divisions (meiosis I and II) to give rise to haploid spermatids. These in turn undergo a complex process of morphological and functional differentiation resulting in the production of mature spermatozoa. Not all germ cells, however, achieve maturity, and such spontaneous death of certain classes of germ cells appears to be a constant feature of normal spermatogenesis in a variety of mammalian species, including the human (Allan et al, 1987; Russell et al, 1990; Sharpe, 1994). As will be addressed below, a growing body of evidence has now demonstrated that apoptosis is the underlying mechanism of germ cell death during normal spermatogenesis, and can be triggered by a wide variety of regulatory stimuli. In this chapter, we will focus on the role of programmed germ cell death in spermatogenesis, as well as highlight the similarities and differences in the pathways by which germ cell death is repressed or activated in various model systems. We will also address the recent advances in the intratesticular regulatory mechanisms that control germ cell apoptosis.


Germ Cell Sertoli Cell Seminiferous Tubule Seminiferous Epithelium Pachytene Spermatocyte 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. P. Sinha Hikim
    • 1
  • Y. H. Lue
    • 1
  • C. Wang
    • 1
  • R. S. Swerdloff
    • 1
  1. 1.Harbor-UCLA Medical CenterTorrance

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