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Sertoli cell
Germinal epithelium testicle.svg
Germinal epithelium of the testicle.
1: basal lamina
2: spermatogonia
3: spermatocyte 1st order
4: spermatocyte 2nd order
5: spermatid
6: mature spermatid
7: Sertoli cell
8: tight junction (blood testis barrier)
Histological section through testicular parenchyma of a boar.
1 Lumen of Tubulus seminiferus contortus
2 spermatids
3 spermatocytes
4 spermatogonia
5 Sertoli cell
6 Myofibroblasts
7 Leydig cells
8 capillaries
Gray's subject #258 1243
MeSH Sertoli+Cells

A Sertoli cell (a kind of sustentacular cell) is a 'nurse' cell of the testes that is part of a seminiferous tubule.

It is activated by follicle-stimulating hormone and has FSH-receptor on its membranes.



Because its main function is to nurture the developing sperm cells through the stages of spermatogenesis, the Sertoli cell has also been called the "mother" or "nurse" cell. Sertoli cells also act as phagocytes, consuming the residual cytoplasm during spermiogenesis. Translocation of germ cells from the base to the lumen of the seminiferous tubules occurs by conformational changes in the lateral margins of the sertoli cells.


Sertoli cells secrete the following substances:

  • inhibin and activins - secreted after puberty, and work together to regulate FSH secretion
  • androgen binding protein - (also called testosterone binding globulin) increases testosterone concentration in the seminiferous tubules to stimulate spermiogenesis
  • the Ets related molecule (ERM transcription factor) - needed for maintenance of the spermatogonial stem cell in the adult testis.


The tight junctions of Sertoli cells form the blood-testis barrier, a structure that partitions the interstitial blood compartment of the testis from the adluminal compartment of the seminiferous tubules. Because of the apical progression of the spermatogonia, the tight junctions must be dynamically reformed and broken to allow the immunoidentical spermatogonia to cross through the blood-testis barrier so they can become immunologically unique. Sertoli cells control the entry and exit of nutrients, hormones and other chemicals into the tubules of the testis as well as make the adluminal compartment an immune-privileged site.

The cell is also responsible for establishing and maintaining the spermatogonial stem cell niche, which ensures the renewal of stem cells and the differentiation of spermatogonia into mature germ cells that progress stepwise through the long process of spermatogenesis, ending in the release of spermatozoa. Sertoli cells bind to spermatogonial cells via N-cadherins and galctosyltransferase (via carbohydrate residues).

Other functions

During the Maturation phase of spermiogenesis, the Sertoli cells consume the unneeded portions of the spermatozoa.

Production of Sertoli cells

Once fully differentiated, the Sertoli cell is unable to proliferate. Therefore, once spermatogenesis has begun, no more Sertoli cells are created.

Recently however, some scientists have found a way to grow these cells outside of the body. This gives rise to the possibility of repairing some defects that cause male infertility.


Sertoli cells are called so because of their eponym Enrico Sertoli, an Italian physiologist who discovered them while studying medicine in the University of Pavia, Italy.[2]

He published a description of this cell in 1865. The cell was discovered by Sertoli with a Belthle microscope purchased in 1862, which he used while studying medicine.

In the 1865 publication, his first description used the terms "tree-like cell" or "stringy cell" and most importantly he referred to these "mother cells." It was other scientists who used Enrico's family name, Sertoli, to label these cell in publications, starting in 1888. As of 2006, two textbooks that are devoted specifically to the Sertoli cell have been published.


On slides, using standard staining, it can be easy to confuse the Sertoli cells with the other cells of the germinal epithelium. The most distinctive feature of the Sertoli cells is the dark nucleolus.[3]


Sertoli-Leydig cell tumour are part of the sex cord-stromal tumour group of ovarian neoplasms.

Additional images

See also


  1. ^ Xiong X, Wang A, Liu G, Liu H, Wang C, Xia T, Chen X, Yang K (2006). "Effects of p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene on the expressions of transferrin and androgen-binding protein in rat Sertoli cells". Environ Res 101 (3): 334–9. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2005.11.003. PMID 16380112.  
  2. ^ synd/518 at Who Named It?
  3. ^ OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences - OSU-CVHS Home

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Named for Enrico Sertoli, who published the first description of these cells in 1865.


Sertoli cell

Sertoli cells

Sertoli cell (plural Sertoli cells)

Wikipedia has an article on:


  1. A kind of sustentacular cell which serves as a "nurse" cell of the testes and which is part of a seminiferous tubule.

Simple English

A Sertoli cell is a cell found in the testes. Its main function is to help the developing sperm cells through the stages of spermatogenesis - the process of turning stem cells into sperm. It was also called the "mother cell." The cell also helps in the creation of stem cells.


Sertoli cells get their name from Enrico Sertoli, an Italian physiologist. He discovered them while studying medicine in the University of Pavia, Italy. He published a description of this cell in 1865. As of 2006, two textbooks have been published that are almost entirely about the Sertoli cell .

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