Spermiation: The process of sperm release

Spermatogenesis. 2011 Jan;1(1):14-35. doi: 10.4161/spmg.1.1.14525.


Spermiation is the process by which mature spermatids are released from Sertoli cells into the seminiferous tubule lumen prior to their passage to the epididymis. It takes place over several days at the apical edge of the seminiferous epithelium, and involves several discrete steps including remodelling of the spermatid head and cytoplasm, removal of specialized adhesion structures and the final disengagement of the spermatid from the Sertoli cell. Spermiation is accomplished by the co-ordinated interactions of various structures, cellular processes and adhesion complexes which make up the "spermiation machinery". This review addresses the morphological, ultrastructural and functional aspects of mammalian spermiation. The molecular composition of the spermiation machinery, its dynamic changes and regulatory factors are examined. The causes of spermiation failure and their impact on sperm morphology and function are assessed in an effort to understand how this process may contribute to sperm count suppression during contraception and to phenotypes of male infertility.