(Image courtesy of by Henry Vandyke Carter)
Named after Enrico Sertoli, an Italian physiologist, Sertoli cells are a specialized cell type found in the testicles. Specifically, they are located in the seminiferous tubules of the testes and they facilitate the production of new sperm, or, spermatogenesis.
Sertoli cells have many functions. One function is secreting a number of substances that maintain and stimulate spermatogenesis. Among these substances is androgen binding protein which increases testosterone concentration in the seminiferous tubules, and stimulates spermatogenesis. A number of other hormones and compounds are also produced, all of which are involved in nourishing sperm cells through to later stages of spermatogenesis.
Sertoli cells are also responsible for formation of the blood-testis barrier, which partitions blood flow from the seminiferous tubules. This physical barrier is not a strict barrier, but rather is formed by the very tight junctions between individual Sertoli cells.
Other functions of Sertoli cells include DNA repair, phagocytosis, and the modulation of immune response. All of these functions are involved in the differentiation of spermatogonia into mature sperm.
Sertoli cells are also required for male sexual development, and in puberty, once spermatogenesis has begun, Sertoli cells are unable to proliferate. This means from that point on, no more Sertoli cells are created, and any damage to existing Sertoli cell populations can be permanent.
Nuts & Bolts: Sertoli Cells
To learn more about, please visit our series of posts about male reproduction and contraception:
Blood-testis barrier - a physical barrier between the blood vessels and the seminiferous tubules of the animal testes
Phagocytosis - the process by which a cell uses its plasma membrane to engulf a large particle
Seminiferous tubules - twisted, curved ducts in each lobule of the testis in which spermatozoa develop
Spermatogenesis - the origin and development of the sperm cells within the male reproductive organs, the testes
Spermatogonia - developing sperm cells, originating from spermatogonial stem cells
Testes - an organ which produces sperm
Testosterone - the primary sex hormone and anabolic steroid in males, responsible for the development of male reproductive tissues and secondary sexual characteristics
For additional terminology related to male contraception and the male reproductive system, please visit our glossary:
Iliadou PK, Tsametis C, Kaprara A, Papadimas I, Goulis DG (October 2015). "The Sertoli cell: Novel clinical potentiality". Hormones. 14 (4): 504–14. doi:10.14310/horm.2002.1648. PMID 26859601.
Kaur G, Thompson LA, Dufour JM (June 2014). "Sertoli cells--immunological sentinels of spermatogenesis". Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology. 30: 36–44. doi:10.1016/j.semcdb.2014.02.011. PMC 4043859. PMID 24603046.
Ahmed EA, Barten-van Rijbroek AD, Kal HB, Sadri-Ardekani H, Mizrak SC, van Pelt AM, de Rooij DG (June 2009). "Proliferative activity in vitro and DNA repair indicate that adult mouse and human Sertoli cells are not terminally differentiated, quiescent cells". Biology of Reproduction. 80 (6): 1084–91. doi:10.1095/biolreprod.108.071662. PMID 19164176.
O'Donnell L, Nicholls PK, O'Bryan MK, McLachlan RI, Stanton PG (January 2011). "Spermiation: The process of sperm release". Spermatogenesis. 1 (1): 14–35. doi:10.4161/spmg.1.1.14525. PMC 3158646. PMID 21866274.
Sharpe RM, McKinnell C, Kivlin C, Fisher JS (June 2003). "Proliferation and functional maturation of Sertoli cells, and their relevance to disorders of testis function in adulthood". Reproduction. 125 (6): 769–84. doi:10.1530/reprod/125.6.769. PMID 12773099.
For additional publications related to male contraception and the male reproductive system, please visit our publications page: