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

The mammalian rete testis--a morphological examination.

The fine structure of the rete testis was examined in several primates, domestic animals and rodents. The rete testis consists of a series of interconnected wide channels lined with a simple cuboidal to columnar epithelium, resting on a thick basal lamina. Beneath the basal lamina dense bundles of collagen fibrils and a few blood vessels, lymphatics or nerve tissue are found. The epithelial cells are characterized by large, deeply indented nuclei, spherical or short rod-shaped mitochondria, supranuclear Golgi profiles, some cisterns of rough endoplasmic reticulum, free ribosomes and numerous micropinocytotic vesicles in the ectoplasmic regions. Smooth endoplasmic reticulum, secretory granules, lysosomes or other types of dense bodies are rarely seen. The apical surface of the cells bears numerous microvilli and a single very long flagellum which is presumed to be motile. Ajoining lateral cell membranes exhibit a juxtaluminal tight junction, elaborate interdigitations and desmosomes. The basal plasma membrane is highly irregular greatly increasing its surface area of contact with the underlying interstitium. The nuclei of the rete epithelial cells contain pale-staining, spherical structure, 2 mum in diameter, composed of circularly oriented fine filaments. The significance of the nuclear structures remains unknown. Thorotrast was injected into the lumen of the hamster and rat rete testis and 30 minutes later the proximal portion of the excurrent duct system of the testis was prepared for electron microscopy. Whereas the ductuli efferentes and first part of the epididymis possessed numerous apical vesicles filled with the thorotrast, this electron opaque substance was rarely found in the epithelium of the rete testis. Thus, incorporation of particulate matter into the lining cells of the rete from its lumen is apparently less active than in the epithelium of the ductuli and epididymis. Vascularly introduced intercellular tracer compounds such as lanthanum nitrate or horseradish peroxidase did not enter the lumen of the rete testis from the interstitium. The tracer molecules appeared to be blocked by the juxtaluminal tight junction separating adjacent epithelial cells. This latter observation suggests that a blood-testis barrier exists at the level of the rete testis epithelium. Although physiological studies have indicated that the composition of fluid secreted in the seminiferous epithelium is considerably modified in the rete testis, the present morphological study does not provide additional evidence to support a secretory or absorptive function for this region of the excurrent duct system of the testis.[1]


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