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Question Video: Describing the Function of a Sertoli Cell Biology

What is the function of a Sertoli cell?


Video Transcript

What is the function of a Sertoli cell? (A) To nourish and support the maturation of spermatozoa. (B) To secrete testosterone and other hormones. (C) To multiply and provide a continual supply of spermatogonia for meiosis. Or (D) to release hydrolytic enzymes into the tubule.

Sertoli cells are located in the seminiferous tubules of a biological male’s testes. Let’s take a look at some of the functions of the different cells that can be found in, and surrounding, the seminiferous tubules so we can figure out the correct answer.

The seminiferous tubules are the site of sperm production. Sperm cells are the male gametes, or sex cells. Overall, the process of sperm production converts diploid primary germ cells that are present when a biological male is still an embryo into haploid mature sperm cells, sometimes called spermatozoa, that might be capable of fertilizing an egg cell.

The cells that are found in the outermost region of the seminiferous tubules of a mature biological male that has begun puberty are called spermatogonia. And they are produced when these primary germ cells undergo mitosis. These spermatogonia differentiate and divide to produce cells that then undergo meiosis to eventually produce haploid mature sperm cells. If we take a look at answer option (C), we can see that this is describing primary germ cells, and not the Sertoli cells. So we can eliminate this option.

As the stages of sperm production progress, the cells produced are located closer and closer to the lumen in the center of the seminiferous tubule. The haploid mature sperm cells are located closest to the lumen as they are the final cells that are produced. These mature sperm cells are specialized to fertilize an egg cell. For example, a structure in their heads called an acrosome can release hydrolytic enzymes that digest through the outer layers of the egg cell to help the sperm cell penetrate it. As we know that releasing hydrolytic enzymes is a specialization of the mature sperm cells, and not of the Sertoli cells, we can also eliminate answer option (D).

The Sertoli cells provide structural support and secrete a fluid that nourishes and supports the sperm cells during their development. The secretions also provide the mature sperm cells with a fluid that they can swim through. This suggests that the correct answer to this question is option (A), but let’s double check answer option (B) to make sure.

Interstitial cells are any cells that are found in the spaces between the functional cells of a tissue. As the functional cells of the testes are found in the seminiferous tubules, the interstitial cells are these cells surrounding it. These cells, which in the testes are specifically called Leydig cells, are those that secrete testosterone. This means that answer option (B) is describing the role of the Leydig cells, not the Sertoli cells. So we can eliminate this option too.

This confirms that the function of a Sertoli cell, and the correct answer to this question, is answer option (A): to nourish and support the maturation of spermatozoa.

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