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Sperm's Journey from the Testes to Urethral Orifice

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Adewale

Heather has taught reproductive biology and has researched neuro, repro and endocrinology. She has a PhD in Zoology/Biology.

Spermatozoa are produced in the testes, beginning a journey that plays an important role in reproduction. Explore the detailed path sperm takes from the testes to the urethral orifice with the end goal of passing on its DNA by fertilizing a female egg. Updated: 08/23/2021

From the Testes to the Ductus Deferens

The major parts of the epididymis
Epididymis Parts

Hi and welcome to the sperm packaging plant. On today's tour we will take you through the process of sperm and semen production and transport. This process begins at puberty in males and continues into adulthood - even into old age.

Stop number 1: the testes. These organs usually come in pairs. This is where sperm production begins. Inside the testes, sperm proceed through the processes of mitosis and meiosis to produce haploid spermatozoa.

These spermatozoa are almost mature but lack flagellar movement and the ability to fertilize an egg. That means they aren't quite mobile yet. They travel from the rete testis, through ducts and into the head of the epididymis.

Stop number 2: the epididymis. This stop marks the start of the male reproductive tract. Sperm entering the epididymis are functionally immature and are immobile.

They enter at the head of the epididymis and they travel down through the body into the tail, where they may be stored until they continue on their path. This process completes the final stages of sperm maturation and takes about two weeks.

Stop number 3: the ductus deferens. The tail of the epididymis curves around and meets up with the ductus deferens. Mature, but still immobile, sperm leave the tail and enter the duct. Here they start their ascent, traveling upwards into the abdominal cavity and around the bladder where the duct curves and starts to descend back down.

Now remember, the sperm at this point are still immobile, so this transport is under the control of peristaltic (or wavelike) contractions of the smooth muscles lining the duct. Near the end, the ductus deferens expands into the ampulla and combines with ducts exiting from the seminal vesicles to form the ejaculatory duct. Sperm will be stored in the ampulla until the male experiences sexual arousal.

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The location of the ductus deferens
Ductus Deferens Diagram

Sexual Arousal and Emission

Let's pause a second to talk about where and why sperm have to be stored. The ampulla, ductus deferens and the tail of the epididymis participate in the storage of sperm. You see, sperm aren't needed until the male engages in sexual activity, so they have to have somewhere to wait.

Sexual activity begins with arousal and is followed by a process called emission and then by ejaculation. During emission, sperm is propelled out of the ampulla, into the ejaculatory duct and travels past the accessory glands where it combines with fluids from these glands to produce semen. These glands are stops 4, 5 and 6.

Accessory Glands and the Emission Process

Stop 4 includes our first set of accessory glands: the seminal vesicles. Emission begins at the junction of the ductus deferens and the ejaculatory duct. This is where sperm combines with secretions from the seminal vesicles. These paired accessory glands secrete seminal fluid into the ejaculatory duct that makes up about 60% of the semen.

The structure of the seminal vesicles
Seminal Vesicles Diagram

Not only does seminal fluid contain nutrients for sperm growth, but it is also responsible for beginning the capacitation process. Capacitation is the term used to refer to the process of sperm gaining its motility, or mobility - the ability to move. This begins with seminal fluid and ends when sperm enter the female reproductive tract. So, this means that sperm leaving the ejaculatory duct and entering the prostatic urethra are now mobile and begin beating their flagella.

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