A new methodological approach using immunohistochemical markers for Sertoli cells (alpha inhibin), peritubular cells (alpha smooth muscle actin), and S-phase cells (bromodeoxyuridine; BrdU) is presented that allows an accurate and simultaneous analysis of morphogenetic and mitogenic changes occurring in vitro. Sertoli cells and peritubular cells were isolated by sequential enzymatic digestion from 7-day-old rats. Laminin, as a major component of the extracellular matrix of the seminiferous tubule, and FSH, as a hormone stimulating Sertoli cell proliferation, were tested for their ability to influence the morphology or mitotic activity of the cultured cells. After fixation, the coverslips were stained for these antigens with use of specific primary antibodies and horseradish peroxidase- or alkaline phosphatase-labeled secondary antibodies for visualization of the respective antigens with different-colored precipitates. This approach allowed us to distinguish the two cell populations, which could not be done unequivocally without the antibody staining. We scored striking changes in cell densities and cell ratios during the culture period. Peritubular cells showed a consistently higher BrdU-labeling index than Sertoli cells. While Sertoli cells were not labeled until Day 7, peritubular cells proliferated as soon as on Day 3, and their density doubled from Day 3 to Day 7. A linear negative correlation was established for Sertoli cell proliferation in response to their local density on the coverslip, indicating contact inhibition as a signal for cessation of mitosis. At high cell densities, this inhibition was partially overcome in the presence of FSH. The presence of laminin had striking effects on the morphogenetic response but only a minor influence on mitogenesis.