The distribution pattern of cytokeratin and vimentin immunoreactivity in testicular biopsies of infertile men

Anat Embryol (Berl). 1994 Dec;190(6):515-20. doi: 10.1007/BF00190101.


Testicular biopsies of infertile patients are often characterized by a mixed atrophy, in which different types of spermatogenic lesions are found in adjacent tubules. In order to evaluate a possible involvement of the state of differentiation of the Sertoli cells, the distribution pattern of cytokeratin and vimentin intermediate filaments within the seminiferous epithelium of 228 biopsy specimens with normal spermatogenesis (n = 10), mixed atrophy (n = 206) or Sertoli Cell Only Syndrome (n = 12) were investigated by means of immunohistochemical techniques. Sertoli cells were regularly found to show vimentin expression in tubules with normal spermatogenesis as well as in tubules with any kind of spermatogenic impairment including SCO. Cytokeratin expression as a marker showing lack of differentiation was common in Sertoli cells of tubules with arrest of spermatogenesis at the level of spermatogonia, and was occasionally associated with arrest at the level of primary spermatocytes or with SCO. Ultrastructural examination of tubules with spermatogonial arrest revealed Sertoli cells with features of typical fetal or prepubertal Sertoli cells, such as round to ovoid nuclei without indentations, stacks of rough ER and spot desmosomes. These data suggest that spermatogenic arrest at the level of spermatogonia might be due to functional impairment of the associated Sertoli cells, which have maintained or regained an undifferentiated state and are not able to initiate or trigger the process of spermatogonial differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infertility, Male / pathology*
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism
  • Keratins / immunology
  • Keratins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Sertoli Cells / cytology
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Testis / pathology*
  • Vimentin / immunology
  • Vimentin / metabolism*


  • Vimentin
  • Keratins