What Is a Sertoli Cell?

A sertoli cell is an integral part of the male reproductive system. It is found in the seminiferous tubule, a part of the testes. A sertoli cell plays an integral role in the maturation of the sperm cells or the spermatozoa. This is vital for the sperm to attain motility and potency.

Spermatogenesis and Sertoli Cell

This process of sperm maturation is called spermatogenesis. Spermatogenesis is initiated during puberty and lasts for most part of a male’s life. This is why the sertoli cell is often called a nurse cell--it nurses a sperm and helps it become fully functional.

During spermatogenesis, the sertoli cell secretes various hormones that initiate proper maturation of the sperm cell. In fact, spermatogenesis is fully dependent upon the activity of sertoli cells; it is catalyzed when the sertoli cells secrete a specific protein to raise the testosterone concentration in the seminiferous tubules. The sertoli cell also regulates the nutrients supplied to the developing sperm cell. The sertoli cell also scavenges the by-products of spermatogenesis, ensuring that there is no build-up of toxicity within the testes.

Sertoli Cell and Male Infertility

The activity of the sertoli cell is integral to the fertility of a male. Only a fully mature sperm can permeate through the female egg cell and establish fertilization. One form of male infertility is referred to as sertoli cell-only syndrome or SCO Syndrome. When this condition is established, the immature sperm cells are not properly directed towards the sertoli cells (the sertoli cells contain negligible or no sperm). Dysfunctional sertoli cell activity also suggests a hormonal problem among men. This is because sertoli cell activity is stimulated by FSH or the Follicle Stimulating Hormone.

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