In the testes of West African dwarf goats, modified Sertoli cells comprise the major component of the terminal segment epithelium. They resemble Sertoli cells proper but differ in the paucity of agranular endoplasmic reticulum and lipid droplets. Cell attachment devices present include rudimentary desmosomes and occasional multiple contacts of opposing plasma membranes, interrupted by segments of slightly expanded intercellular space. A few generative cells are present in the proximal zone of the epithelium, but their development appears to terminate as early spermatids which hang loosely on the luminal surface. The middle zone epithelium comprises vacuolated cells lying among other cells containing abundant microtubules in their subapical cytoplasm. Globular expansions of the intercellular space are also apparent. The terminal plug contains two cell types. Type I are inclined, columnar cells which contain profuse arrays of agranular endoplasmic reticulum in their apical cytoplasm. Type II are smaller cells located at the apex of the plug. Each possesses cytoplasmic processes, which surround the apices of Type I cells. The modified Sertoli cells of all zones and the Type II plug cells contain remnants of spermatozoa at different stages of degradation. The general absence of developing generative cells in the terminal segment epithelium may be related to the paucity of agranular endoplasmic reticulum in the basal cytoplasm of modified Sertoli cells and the absence of typical Sertoli-Sertoli junctional specialisations. Structural modifications evident in the middle and distal zones facilitate distalward movement of materials, while the attenuation and modification of the lumen distally may facilitate phagocytosis of abnormal spermatozoa.
Journal of Anatomy 03/1986; 144:167-79.