Structural features of the epididymis in a dasyurid marsupial (Antechinus stuartii)

D. A. Taggart, P. D. Temple-Smith

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The ductus epididymidis of the marsupial mouse Antechinus stuartii was divided into caput, corpus, and caudal regions using several constant morphological landmarks. Tubule diameter and epithelial height increased gradually from caput to cauda. In contrast, the surface area of the lumen of the ductus epididymidis increased to a maximum in the distal caput region, but decreased markedly in the distal cauda in association with characteristic changes in lumen shape (from circular to slit-shaped) and epithelial height. Epithelial cells of the ductus epididymidis were generally similar in structure to those described in other mammalian species. Principal and basal cells were common throughout the epithelium. Clear and mitochondria-rich cells were also identified, but occurred less frequently. Regional variations in cell ultrastructure were observed only in principal cells. Numerous vesicular inclusions occurred in the apical cytoplasm of cells in caput segments, membrane-bounded, electron-dense bodies were common in distal corpus regions, and a brush border of microvilli characterized the luminal surface of principal cells in caudal segments. Sperm index increased in the proximal caput, declined to basal levels in the distal caput and proximal corpus, and then increased to a maximum in segment 9 of the distal corpus and remained at about this level throughout the cauda epididymidis. Nuclear rotation, loss of cytoplasmic droplets, and other sperm maturational changes were observed along the epididymis. Discarded cytoplasmic droplets collected in large masses interspersed between aggregates of spermatozoa throughout the distal regions of the duct. There was no evidence of phagocytosis by principal cells of cytoplasmic droplets. The epididymis of A. stuartii differs from that of other mammals. The unusual caudal region, which has little storage capacity for sperm, is an unusual adaptation in a species in which the male is known to be polygamous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-210
Number of pages8
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1989


  • Antechinus stuartii (Marsupialia)
  • Epididymis
  • Histology
  • Ultrastructure

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