Key words: Epididymis
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract. The way in which the human epididymis modifies spermatozoa during their sojourn in this structure might be clarified by knowledge of the nature of its secretions. We have examined the presence of several lysosomal hydrolases in human epididymal tissue and fluids, and their synthesis and secretion by monolayer cultures. Tissues were obtained from men undergoing orchidectomy for prostatic carcinoma. The enzymes cathepsin D and acid α-glucosidase were localised in the lysosomes of epithelial cells from the corpus epididymidis, by an immunocytochemical technique. Cathepsin D was also found in epithelial cells of the efferent ducts within lysosomes, apical vesicles and multivesicular bodies. No immunolocalisation of acid glucosidase in the efferent ducts or on the microvilli of the corpus was demonstrable. Cathepsin D, β-hexosaminidase (N-acetylglucosaminidase) and α-glucosidase were measurable in the luminal fluid from the human corpus epididymidis; β-hexosaminidase was secreted into the culture medium by confluent monolayers of epididymal and efferent duct cells. Immunoprecipitation of cell extracts and culture medium of these cultures incubated with 35S-methionine revealed that the precursors of cathepsin D and β-hexosaminidase were synthesized and secreted by such monolayers. Thus, active lytic enzymes are secreted by the human epididymis and could modify sperm membranes.
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