Sperm maturation, fluid transport, and secretion and absorption of protein in the epididymis of the echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus

in Reproduction

Summary. Extratesticular sperm maturation in the echidna mainly occurs in the initial segment of the ductus epididymidis. The process involves the development of motility, migration and loss of the cytoplasmic droplet, a decrease in permeability to Congo red and the formation of sperm bundles. The spermatozoa are supported in the bundles by a matrix of electron-dense material; the bundles are very motile in undiluted samples of luminal fluids.

Micropuncture studies of anaesthetized echidnas showed that the ductuli efferentes absorb 74% of the fluid and 46% of the soluble protein that enters them. The initial segment of the ductus epididymidis absorbs 83% of the fluid which enters it, and its secretions increase the concentration of protein in luminal fluid by 107%. Denatured, linear-gradient polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of micropuncture samples showed that 1 protein (apparent Mr = 100 500) which is not present in blood plasma is present in rete testis fluid, and a glycoprotein which is present in rete testis fluid (apparent Mr = 78 500) is absorbed by the ductuli efferentes. Six proteins which are not present in blood plasma are secreted into the initial segment of the ductus epididymidis; 5 are glycoproteins (apparent Mr = 48 500, 39 000, 32 000, 20 500 and 19 000) and one (apparent Mr = 82 500) is not. The most prominent electrophoresis bands corresponded to the glycoproteins with apparent molecular weights of 48 500, 20 500 and 19 000.

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