The Testis pp 109-119 | Cite as

Developmental Genetics of Spermatogenesis in the Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans

  • Steven W. L’Hernault
  • Andrew W. Singson
Part of the Serono Symposia USA book series (SERONOSYMP)


In both mammals and C. elegans, spermatogenesis is the process where a spermatogonial cell undergoes a series of divisions to produce a highly differentiated cell, the spermatozoon. Spermatogonial cellular divisions are incomplete in mammals so that all subsequent stages occur in a syncitium. The situation is similar in C. elegans, where spermatogonial nuclei initially share a common cytoplasm. Spermatogonial divisions in both mammals and C. elegans are regulated by signaling from gonadal accessory cells. In mammals, this process requires a series of accessory cell types, including Sertoli, peritubular myoid, and Leydig cells (1,2). In contrast, one somatic distal tip cell (Fig. 10.1) regulates exit of spermatogonia from mitosis in C. elegans, and it no longer participates in spermatogenesis after meiosis is initiated (3). Spermatogenesis occurs within a tubular structure in both mammals and C. elegans. Differentiation occurs along the length and across the radius of this tube (the seminiferous tubule) in mammals. The Sertoli accessory cell plays a crucial role in both the linear and radial aspects of mammalian spermatogenesis. At any given time, a single Sertoli cell can be in contact with up to 50 individual, developing germ cells that can be at four different stages of development (4). In each mammalian testis, spermatogenesis occurs within a “ball of yarn” composed of seminiferous tubules that, if unraveled, would be many meters long. The C. elegans gonadal tube is ~400 mm long (Fig. 10.1). and only linear differentiation is observed (5). After initiating meiosis, individual C. elegans spermatogonial cells bud from the syncitial testes and lineally complete development without the aid of accessory cells (6).


Caenorhabditis Elegans Seminiferous Tubule Accessory Cell Primary Spermatocyte Nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven W. L’Hernault
  • Andrew W. Singson

There are no affiliations available

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