Ultrastructural studies were made on the uterovaginal sperm-host glands from virgin and inseminated hens. Their fine structure differs only in the presence of spermatozoa in the glandular lumina. Ciliated and non-ciliated epithelial cells were present; the former occurred in the neck region of the tubular glands and merged with the general vaginal surface epithelium.
The true glandular epithelium was composed of non-ciliated cells which showed evidence of high metabolic and secretory activities. The secretion contained carbohydrate and lipid but apocrine secretion rich in glycogen was also observed occasionally. The significance of these secretions in relation to the survival of the stored spermatozoa is discussed. The non-ciliated cells contained many cytoplasmic filaments resembling tonofibrils. It is suggested that these confer contractility on the gland cells, so mobilizing the spermatozoa in response to unknown periodic stimuli associated with oviposition or ovulation.
The stored spermatozoa did not form an intimate association with the lining cells of the glands but the covering membranes of the heads of spermatozoa adhered to each other. It is suggested that this might be due to the absence of antiagglutinating factors in the sperm-host glands.
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