Summary. The occurrence of degenerating germ cells in the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium was measured in testicular tissues from eight normal adult rats. Testes were perfusion fixed, embedded in epoxy resin and, after sectioning a total of 180 randomly selected blocks at 1 μm, stained sections were examined by light microscopy; all cross-sectioned seminiferous tubules were categorized into one of 14 stages of the spermatogenic cycle. The number of degenerating cells per tubule was recorded in 2103 tubules. Degenerating germ cells were not detected at stages II–VI, and only rarely at stage VII (n = 366 tubules) in which one primary spermatocyte and one step 19 spermatid degenerated. All other stages exhibited a greater incidence of degenerative germ cells, particularly at stage XIV where, on average, the frequency of degenerating cells per round seminiferous tubule was about 40 times greater than at stage VII. The results indicated that, in the normal adult rat testis, the germ cells are least at risk of degeneration as they pass through stage VII.
Keywords: testis; spermatogenesis; germ cells; cell degeneration; rat