Experiments have been carried out to investigate the reaction of epididymal spermatozoa to interruption of their normal passage through the epididymis. In eighteen rabbits, the epididymis was ligated unilaterally at the distal end of the body, and in a further fifteen the ligature was placed at a point just distal to the head of the epididymis. Samples of spermatozoa from different regions proximal to the ligature were examined in each case for changes in motility, morphology and reactions to certain staining techniques.
It was found that ligation resulted in a distinct pattern of changes in the contained spermatozoa, irrespective of the level at which the epididymis was ligated. Initially these changes involved an enhanced capacity for motility in vitro, decreased eosinophilia and an increased number of coiled tails. In addition, maturation changes in the acrosome and in the location of the protoplasmic droplet occurred. After 14 days of ligation, however, degeneration of the spermatozoa was widespread.
The significance of these events is discussed in relation to the normal maturation of spermatozoa. It is suggested that spermatozoa can mature in situ when the epididymis is ligated, but that the changed environment resulting from ligation appears to superimpose a number of morphological abnormalities on the spermatozoa.
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