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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Variation in seasonal ultrastructure of sexual granules in the renal sexual segment of the Northern Water Snake, Nerodia sipedon sipedon.

The renal sexual segment of the kidney ( RSS) can be found in many male squamate reptiles, encompassing the distal region of the nephron and, in some cases, collecting ducts. This sexually dimorphic structure exhibits varying degrees of hypertrophy and regression throughout the year. Although researchers have been aware of and have investigated this unique structure for over a century, its ultimate function remains under discussion. In many studies hypertrophy and regression of the RSS have been correlated with testicular activity and androgen secretion. As in most of the snakes studied to date, the male Northern Water Snake (Nerodia s. sipedon) does not exhibit a dramatic cycle of hypertrophy and regression, as reported in lizards. Following the initial hypertrophy at maturity, the male Northern Water Snake maintains a level of RSS hypertrophy throughout the year. Variations in the appearance and makeup of the sexual granules provide an identifiable and quantifiable seasonal pattern that can be correlated with the concentration of plasma androgens. In the Northern Water Snake, plasma androgens are elevated upon emergence and the RSS epithelial cells are filled with solid granules. As androgen levels decline during spring, sexual granule content appears to be breaking down (utilized?), becoming diffuse in appearance. By mid- to late summer androgen synthesis is at a maximum, increasing circulating androgens and stimulating the development and return of the solid granules. This study utilized electron microscopy and steroid radioimmunoassay to examine seasonal cycles of sex granules, in terms of development, maintenance, and regression, correlated with plasma androgen concentration. In addition, this investigation provides evidence of a possible secondary source of androgen secretion.[1]


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