Spermatogenesis: The Commitment to Meiosis

Physiol Rev. 2016 Jan;96(1):1-17. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00013.2015.


Mammalian spermatogenesis requires a stem cell pool, a period of amplification of cell numbers, the completion of reduction division to haploid cells (meiosis), and the morphological transformation of the haploid cells into spermatozoa (spermiogenesis). The net result of these processes is the production of massive numbers of spermatozoa over the reproductive lifetime of the animal. One study that utilized homogenization-resistant spermatids as the standard determined that human daily sperm production (dsp) was at 45 million per day per testis (60). For each human that means ∼1,000 sperm are produced per second. A key to this level of gamete production is the organization and architecture of the mammalian testes that results in continuous sperm production. The seemingly complex repetitious relationship of cells termed the "cycle of the seminiferous epithelium" is driven by the continuous commitment of undifferentiated spermatogonia to meiosis and the period of time required to form spermatozoa. This commitment termed the A to A1 transition requires the action of retinoic acid (RA) on the undifferentiated spermatogonia or prospermatogonia. In stages VII to IX of the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium, Sertoli cells and germ cells are influenced by pulses of RA. These pulses of RA move along the seminiferous tubules coincident with the spermatogenic wave, presumably undergoing constant synthesis and degradation. The RA pulse then serves as a trigger to commit undifferentiated progenitor cells to the rigidly timed pathway into meiosis and spermatid differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meiosis*
  • Morphogenesis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spermatogenesis*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / embryology
  • Testis / physiology*
  • Tretinoin / metabolism


  • Tretinoin