Sertoli cells - Frequently Asked Questions

Sertoli cells - Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions on Sertoli cells

What are Sertoli cells?

There are 2 types of cells that are essential for the formation of sperms. These are:

  1. Spermatogenic or germ or sperm-forming cell
  2. Sustentacular or nurse or Sertoli cells.
Sertoli cells play an important role in the viability and normal functioning of the spermatogenic cells.

Are Sertoli cells diploid?

Sertoli cells are diploid cells. In fact every cell in human body is a diploid cell except gametes which are haploid. Gametes in males are sperms and oocytes in females.

Are Sertoli cells germ cells?

Sertoli cells are different from germ cells. However, they play a very important role in the functioning and survival of germ cells.

Are Sertoli cells phagocytic?

Yes. Sertoli cells phagocytize excess spermatic cytoplasm as development proceeds.

Are Sertoli cells immunocompetent?

Sertoli cells are diploid cells with genetic and surface antigenic profiles similar to cells found in other organ system of the human body. Hence, Sertoli cells have an immune response similar to that of the other cells.

Where are Sertoli cells located?

Sertoli cells are located in the seminiferous tubules. They are embedded amongst the spermatogenic cells.

What are the functions of Sertoli cells?

  • Sertoli cells forms the blood testes barrier. Because of this, substances must first pass through the Sertoli cells before they can reach the developing sperm.
    • By isolating the developing gametes from the blood, blood testis barrier prevents an immune response against germ cells’ surface antigens which are recognized as “foreign” by the immune system.
  • Sertoli cells nourish and protect developing sperms in several ways:
    • They nourish spermatocytes, spermatic and sperms.
    • They phagocytize excess spermatid cytoplasm as development proceeds.
    • They control the movement of the spermatogenic cells and release the sperms into the lumen of the seminiferous tubules.
    • They also produce fluid for sperm transport, secrete the hormone inhibin, and regulate the effects of testosterone and FSH.

Sertoli cells and hormone secretion

Do Sertoli cells produce testosterone?

Sertoli cells do not produce or secrete testosterone. Testosterone is secreted by leydig cells.

Do Sertoli cells produce estrogens?

Sertoli cells, Leydig cells and germ cells produce estrogen at various stages of testes development leading to testosterone modulation. 

Do Sertoli cells secrete inhibin?

Yes. Sertoli cells secrete the hormone inhibin. Inhibin regulates the rate of spermatogenesis by inhibiting the secretion of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) by anterior pituitary. If spermatogenesis is proceeding slowly, less inhibin is released. This permits release of more FSH and hence an increased rate of spermatogenesis. This also explains how Sertoli cells support spermatogenesis.

Do Sertoli cells make sperms?

No. Sertoli cells do not produce sperms. Sperms are produced from germinal or spermatogenic cells. However, Sertoli cells play an important role in the synthesis of sperm cells. This is explained above under the 'Functions of Sertoli cells'.

How to identify Sertoli cells?

Sertoli cells are tall columnar cells that span from basement membrane and extends to the lumen.

Who discovered Sertoli cells?

Enrico Sertoli - an Italian physiologist discovered Sertoli cells in 1865. These cells were names as mother cells when they were discovered.