During spermatogenesis, most male germ cells undergo apoptosis, and the cytoplasmic portions of the elongating spermatids are shed as residual bodies (RB). Both apoptotic germ cells (AGC) and RB must be phagocytosed by Sertoli cells, which are essential to maintain testicular homeostasis for normal spermatogenesis. The phagocytosis of AGC and RB by Sertoli cells confers various meanings, including elimination of apoptotic components, removal of autoantigens, and the recycle of degenerated substrates as an energy source. Sertoli cell phagocytosis can be regulated by various mechanisms. The impairment of Sertoli cell phagocytosis may disrupt tissue homeostasis in the testis, thereby impairing to testicular function and spermatogenesis. This chapter discusses the mechanisms underlying phagocytic removal of AGC and RB by Sertoli cells and the consequences of this biological event for spermatogenesis and male fertility.
Part of the book: Male Reproductive Health