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Seminiferous Tubule Structure and Function

Yazan Hamzeh, Derrick Arrington
  • Author
    Yazan Hamzeh

    I am an inspiring budding scientist, who currently works at a fertility unit. I graduated with BSc (honors) in Genetic Engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology, and then pursued an MSc in Clinical Embryology at the University of Oxford where I graduated with merit. During the course of academic endeavors, I found a passion in writing, whether it being scientific writing or blog writing. Therefore, I am so glad to be a part of! I am looking forward to hopefully inspire the many budding students out there.

  • Instructor
    Derrick Arrington

    Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Learn about the seminiferous tubules, seminiferous tubules' definition and function, as well as where they are located, and see a seminiferous tubules diagram. Updated: 09/09/2021

Table of Contents


What are the Seminiferous Tubules?

The male reproductive system is vital for the process of sexual reproduction, which involves the fusion of the male gamete (sperm) with the female gamete (egg) to produce an embryo that would be born as offspring. The male reproductive system is composed of both internal and external structures. Internal structures store and maintain the integrity of sperm by producing fluid to nurture it as it releases into the female reproductive system; these structures include the prostate gland, the epididymis, and the bulbourethral gland. External structures of the male reproductive system include the penis, the testicles (testes), and the scrotum. Testicles are responsible for sperm production and male hormones, and they hang below the penis as they need to be kept at temperatures slightly lower than body temperature. If the temperature gets too cold or too hot, sperm production will stop. Within the testicles, there are highly convoluted structures named the seminiferous tubules. Seminiferous tubules are the specific site of sperm production, also known as spermatogenesis, and provides the necessary microenvironment to support this process.

A microscopic image of the seminiferous tubule.

Seminiferous tubules under the microscope

Seminiferous Meaning

An important term in the title 'seminiferous tubule' is the word seminiferous, which means bearing a seed or producing sperm in the context of biology. This meaning gives a hint on what seminiferous functions entail. Seminiferous tubules are the site of spermatogenesis (sperm production).

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Seminiferous Tubules Function

Round immature sperm cells are present within the seminiferous tubule, and they undergo cell division to form into mature sperm. Primary spermatocytes found in the seminiferous tubules undergo meiotic division to produce secondary spermatocytes and then round spermatids. At that stage, the round spermatids are closer to the lumen of the seminiferous tubules. The seminiferous tubule and its surrounding tissues provide the microenvironment necessary for spermatogenesis by producing nutrients and specific proteins that control this process.

Seminiferous Tubules Diagram & Structures

As mentioned earlier, the seminiferous tubules are tightly coiled tubular structures found in the testes. The seminiferous tubules compose stratified epithelial cells; the seminiferous tubules can be divided into two distinct regions: Sertoli cells and the blood-testis barrier.

Seminiferous Tubules Within the Testicle

The seminiferous tubules are coiled structures in the testicle.

Sertoli Cells

Somatic cells present in the seminiferous tubules are referred to as Sertoli cells. Sertoli cells respond to the hormone follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) released from the pituitary gland in the brain. FSH promotes Sertoli cell proliferation; Sertoli cells are necessary for spermatogenesis, as they regulate this process via direct contact and control the microenvironment vital for sperm production. Sertoli cells release what is known as Sertoli tubule fluid, which includes nutrients and hormones such as inhibin B and activins that nourish the process of spermatogenesis. Furthermore, Sertoli cells release anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) during male embryonic development to develop the male reproductive system.

Blood-Testis Barrier

Tight junctions between Sertoli cells form a blood-testis barrier, which creates a physical barrier between the blood vessels in the testicles and the seminiferous tubules. The blood-testis barrier is also known as interstitial cells. The blood-testis barrier is crucial for the process of spermatogenesis by preventing toxic substances from the blood present outside the testes from entering and interfering in the process of spermatogenesis. For this reason, the fluid present in the lumen of seminiferous is very different than the one present in plasma, as it is mainly composed of hormones such as androgens and estrogen necessary for the progression of spermatogenesis.

Leydig Cells

Somatic cells called Leydig cells reside adjacent to the seminiferous tubule; Leydig cells have a large prominent nucleus and respond to pulses of luteinizing hormones released from the pituitary gland. Leydig cells are responsible for the production and release of androgens such as testosterone that are crucial for the progression of spermatogenesis.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What hormone is in seminiferous tubules?

The hormone produced by cells in the seminiferous tubules are activins and inhibin B. The lumen of the seminiferous tubule also contains androgens and estrogen necessary for the process of spermatogenesis.

What is the function of the interstitial cells?

Interstitial cells, also known as the blood-testis barrier, form a physical separator between the seminiferous tubule and the blood to prevent the entry of toxic substances into the blood that can be harmful to spermatogenesis.

What is the function of the seminiferous tubules?

The seminiferous tubules are the site of sperm production, or also known as spermatogenesis. The seminiferous tubules provide the necessary microenvironment for spermatogenesis progression.

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