Testicle


Testicle
Testicle
Gray1144.png
Diagram of male (human) testicles
Latin testis
Gray's subject #258 1236
Artery Testicular artery
Vein Testicular vein, Pampiniform plexus
Nerve Spermatic plexus
Lymph Lumbar lymph nodes
Dorlands/Elsevier Testicle

The testicle (from Latin testiculus, diminutive of testis, meaning "witness" of virility,[1] plural testes) is the male gonad in animals. Like the ovaries to which they are homologous, testes are components of both the reproductive system and the endocrine system. The primary functions of the testes are to produce sperm (spermatogenesis) and to produce androgens, primarily testosterone.

Testicle

Both functions of the testicle are influenced by gonadotropic hormones produced by the anterior pituitary. Luteinizing hormone (LH) results in testosterone release. The presence of both testosterone and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is needed to support spermatogenesis.

Contents

Anatomy and physiology

External appearance

Almost all healthy male vertebrates have two testes. They are typically of similar size, although in sharks, that on the right side is usually larger, and in many bird and mammal species, the left may be the larger. The primitive jawless fish have only a single testis, located in the midline of the body, although even this forms from the fusion of paired structures in the embryo.[2]

In mammals, the testes are often contained within an extension of the abdomen called the scrotum. In mammals with external testes it is most common for one testicle to hang lower than the other. While the size of the testicle varies, it is estimated that 21.9% of men have their higher testicle being their left, while 27.3% of men have reported to have equally positioned testicles.[3] This is due to differences in the vascular anatomical structure on the right and left sides.

In healthy European adult human males, average testicular volume is 18 cm³ per testis, with normal size ranging from 12 cm³ to 30 cm³.[4] The average testicle size after puberty measures up to around 2 inches long, 0.8 inches in breadth, and 1.2 inches in height (5 x 2 x 3 cm). Measurement in the living adult is done in two basic ways:

  • comparing the testicle with ellipsoids of known sizes (orchidometer).
  • measuring the length, depth and width with a ruler, a pair of calipers or ultrasound imaging.

The volume is then calculated using the formula for the volume of an ellipsoid: 4/3 π × (length/2) × (width/2) × (depth/2).

Internal structure

Transverse section through the left side of the scrotum and the left testis.
Cross section of rabbit testis, magnified 40 times.

Duct system

Under a tough membranous shell, the tunica albuginea, the testis of amniotes and some teleost fish, contains very fine coiled tubes called seminiferous tubules. The tubules are lined with a layer of cells (germ cells) that from puberty into old age, develop into sperm cells (also known as spermatozoa or male gametes). The developing sperm travel through the seminiferous tubules to the rete testis located in the mediastinum testis, to the efferent ducts, and then to the epididymis where newly-created sperm cells mature (see spermatogenesis). The sperm move into the vas deferens, and are eventually expelled through the urethra and out of the urethral orifice through muscular contractions.

Amphibians and most fish do not possess seminiferous tubules. Instead, the sperm are produced in spherical structures called sperm ampullae. These are seasonal structures, releasing their contents during the breeding season, and then being reabsorbed by the body. Before the next breeding season, new sperm ampullae begin to form and ripen. The ampullae are otherwise essentially identical to the seminiferous tubules in higher vertebrates, including the same range of cell types.[2]

Primary Cell Types

Within the seminiferous tubules
  • Here, germ cells develop into spermatogonia, spermatocytes, spermatids and spermatozoon through the process of spermatogenesis. The gametes contain DNA for fertilization of an ovum[5]
  • Sertoli cells - the true epithelium of the seminiferous epithelium, critical for the support of germ cell development into spermatozoa. Sertoli cells secrete inhibin.[6]
Between tubules (interstitial cells)
  • Also present are:
  • Immature Leydig cells
  • Interstitial macrophages and epithelial cells.

Blood supply and lymphatic drainage

Blood supply and lymphatic drainage of the testes and scrotum are distinct:

Layers

Many anatomical features of the adult testis reflect its developmental origin in the abdomen. The layers of tissue enclosing each testicle are derived from the layers of the anterior abdominal wall. Notably, the cremasteric muscle arises from the internal oblique muscle.

The blood–testis barrier

Large molecules cannot pass from the blood into the lumen of a seminiferous tubule due to the presence of tight junctions between adjacent Sertoli cells. The spermatogonia are in the basal compartment (deep to the level of the tight junctions) and the more mature forms such as primary and secondary spermatocytes and spermatids are in the adluminal compartment.

The function of the blood–testis barrier (red highlight in diagram above) may be to prevent an auto-immune reaction. Mature sperm (and their antigens) arise long after immune tolerance is established in infancy. Therefore, since sperm are antigenically different from self tissue, a male animal can react immunologically to his own sperm. In fact, he is capable of making antibodies against them.

Injection of sperm antigens causes inflammation of the testis (auto-immune orchitis) and reduced fertility. Thus, the blood–testis barrier may reduce the likelihood that sperm proteins will induce an immune response, reducing fertility and so progeny.

Temperature regulation

The testes work best at temperatures slightly less than core body temperature. The spermatogenesis is less efficient at lower and higher temperatures. This is presumably why the testes are located outside the body. There are a number of mechanisms to maintain the testes at the optimum temperature.

Cremasteric muscle

The cremasteric muscle is part of the spermatic cord. When this muscle contracts, the cord is shortened and the testicle is moved closer up toward the body, which provides slightly more warmth to maintain optimal testicular temperature. When cooling is required, the cremasteric muscle relaxes and the testicle is lowered away from the warm body and is able to cool. This phenomenon is known as the cremasteric reflex. It also occurs in response to stress (the testicles rise up toward the body in an effort to protect them in a fight). There are persistent reports that relaxation indicates approach of orgasm.[citation needed] There is a noticeable tendency to also retract during orgasm.

The testicles can also be lifted voluntarily using the pubococcygeus muscle, which partially activates related muscles. This can sometimes be triggered by tightening or sucking in the stomach or abdomen.

This movement will also happen spontaneously in some men when they unintentionally contract their abdominal or PC muscles.

Development

There are two phases in which the testes grow substantially; namely in embryonic and pubertal age.

Embryonic

During mammalian development, the gonads are at first capable of becoming either ovaries or testes.[7] In humans, starting at about week 4 the gonadal rudiments are present within the intermediate mesoderm adjacent to the developing kidneys. At about week 6, sex cords develop within the forming testes. These are made up of early Sertoli cells that surround and nurture the germ cells that migrate into the gonads shortly before sex determination begins. In males, the sex-specific gene SRY that is found on the Y-chromosome initiates sex determination by downstream regulation of sex-determining factors, (such as GATA4, SOX9 and AMH), which leads to development of the male phenotype, including directing development of the early bipotential gonad down the male path of development.

Testes follow the "path of descent" from high in the posterior fetal abdomen to the inguinal ring and beyond to the inguinal canal and into the scrotum. In most cases (97% full-term, 70% preterm), both testes have descended by birth. In most other cases, only one testis fails to descend (cryptorchidism) and that will probabaly express itself within a year.

Pubertal

The testes grow in response to the start of spermatogenesis. Size depends on lytic function, sperm production (amount of spermatogenisis present in testis), interstitial fluid, and Sertoli cell fluid production. After puberty, the volume of the testes can be increased by over 500% as compared to the pre-pubertal size.[citation needed] Testicles are fully descended before one reaches puberty.

Evolution

External testes

The basal condition for mammals is to have internal testes. Only the Boreoeutherian land mammals, the large group of mammals that includes humans, have externalized testes. Their testes function best at temperatures lower than their core body temperature. Their testes are located outside of the body, suspended by the spermatic cord within the scrotum. The testes of the non-boreotherian mammals such as the monotremes, armadillos, sloths, elephants remain within the abdomen.[8] There are also some Boreoeutherian mammals with internal testes, such as the rhinoceros.

Marine boreotherian mammals, such as whales and dolphins, also have internal testes, but it has recently been shown (e.g., for dolphins) that they use elaborate vascular networks to provide the necessary temperature lowering for optimum function. As external testes would increase drag, many boreotherian aquatic mammals have internal testes which are kept cool by special circulatory systems that cool the arterial blood going to the testes by placing the arteries near veins bringing cooled venous blood from the skin.

There are several hypotheses why most boreotherian mammals have external testes which operate best at a temperature that is slightly less than the core body temperature, e.g. that it is stuck with enzymes evolved in a colder temperature due to external testes evolving for different reasons, that the lower temperature of the testes simply is more efficient for sperm production.

1) More efficient. The classic hypothesis is that cooler temperature of the testes allows for more efficient fertile spermatogenesis. In other words, there are no possible enzymes operating at normal core body temperature that are as efficient as the ones evolved, at least none appearing in our evolution so far.

The early mammals had lower body temperatures and thus their testes worked efficiently within their body. However it is argued that boreotherian mammals have higher body temperatures than the other mammals and had to develop external testes to keep them cool. It is argued that those mammals with internal testes, such as the monotremes, armadillos, sloths, elephants, and rhinoceroses, have a lower core body temperatures than those mammals with external testes.

However, the question remains why birds despite having very high core body temperatures have internal testes and did not evolve external testes.[9] It was once theorized that birds used their air sacs to cool the testes internally, but later studies revealed that birds' testes are able to function at core body temperature.[9]

Some mammals which have seasonal breeding cycles keep their testes internal until the breeding season at which point their testes descend and increase in size and become external.[10]

2) Irreversible adaptation to sperm competition. It has been suggested that the ancestor of the boreoeutherian mammals was a small mammal that required very large testes (perhaps rather like those of a hamster) for sperm competition and thus had to place its testes outside the body.[11] This led to enzymes involved in spermatogenesis, spermatogenic DNA polymerase beta and recombinase activities evolving a unique temperature optimum, slightly less than core body temperature. When the boreoeutherian mammals then diversified into forms that were larger and/or did not require intense sperm competition they still produced enzymes that operated best at cooler temperatures and had to keep their testes outside the body. This position is made less parsimonious by the fact that the kangaroo, a non-boreoeutherian mammal, has external testicles. The ancestors of kangaroos might, separately from boreotherian mammals, have also been subject to heavy sperm competition and thus developed external testes, however, kangaroo external testes are suggestive of a possible adaptive function for external testes in large animals.

3) Protection from abdominal cavity pressure changes. One argument for the evolution of external testes is that it protects the testes from abdominal cavity pressure changes caused by jumping and galloping.[12]

Testicular size

A human testicle is being measured with an orchidometer and is typically 15 to 25 ml in volume.

Testicular size as a proportion of body weight varies widely. In the mammalian kingdom, there is a tendency for testicular size to correspond with multiple mates (e.g., harems, polygamy). Production of testicular output sperm and spermatic fluid is also larger in polygamous animals, possibly a spermatogenic competition for survival. The testes of the right whale are likely to be the largest of any animal, each weighing around 500 kg (1,100 lb).[13] Testis weight also varies in seasonal breeders like deer and horses. The change is related to changes in testosterone production.

Health issues

Physical injury

  • The testicles are well-known to be very sensitive to impact and injury. The pain involved travels up from each testicle into the abdominal cavity, via the spermatic plexus, which is the primary nerve of each testicle.
  • Testicular torsion is a medical emergency. Treatment within 4-6 hours of onset can prevent necrosis of the testis.[14]
  • Testicular rupture is a medical emergency caused by blunt force impact, sharp edge, or piercing impact to one or both testicles, which can lead to necrosis of the testis in as little as 30 minutes.[citation needed]
  • Penetrating injuries to the scrotum may cause castration, or physical separation or destruction of the testes, possibly along with part or all of the penis, which results in total sterility if the testicles are not reattached quickly.

Diseases and conditions that affect the testes

Some prominent conditions and differential diagnoses include:

  • Testicular cancer and other neoplasms To improve the chances of catching possible cases of testicular cancer or other health issues early, regular testicular self-examination is recommended.
  • Varicocele, swollen vein(s) from the testes, usually affecting the left side,[15] the testis usually being normal
  • Hydrocele testis, swelling around testes caused by accumulation of clear liquid within a membranous sac, the testis usually being normal
  • Endocrine disorders can also affect the size and function of the testis.
  • Certain inherited conditions involving mutations in key developmental genes also impair testicular descent, resulting in abdominal or inguinal testes which remain nonfunctional and may become cancerous. Other genetic conditions can result in the loss of the Wolffian ducts and allow for the persistence of Müllerian ducts.
  • Bell Clapper Deformity is a deformity in which the testicle is not attached to the scrotal walls, and can rotate freely on the spermatic cord within the tunica vaginalis. This deformity has been linked to Testicular torsion.

Effects of exogenous hormones

To some extent, it is possible to change testicular size. Short of direct injury or subjecting them to adverse conditions, e.g., higher temperature than they are normally accustomed to, they can be shrunk by competing against their intrinsic hormonal function through the use of externally administered steroidal hormones. Steroids taken for muscle enhancement (especially anabolic steroids) often have the undesired side effect of testicular shrinkage.

Similarly, stimulation of testicular functions via gonadotropic-like hormones may enlarge their size. Testes may shrink or atrophy during hormone replacement therapy or through chemical castration.

In all cases, the loss in testes volume corresponds with a loss of spermatogenesis.

Historical beliefs about testicles

In the Middle Ages, men who wanted a boy sometimes had their left testicle removed. This was because people believed that the right testicle made "boy" sperm and the left made "girl" sperm.[16] As early as 330 BC, Aristotle prescribed the ligation (tying off) of the left testicle in men wishing to have boys.[17]

Etymology

The etymology of the word is based on Roman law. The Latin word "testis", witness, was used in the firmly established legal principle "Testis unus, testis nullus" (one witness [equals] no witness), meaning that testimony by any one person in court was to be disregarded unless corroborated by the testimony of at least another. This led to the common practice of producing two witnesses, bribed to testify the same way in cases of lawsuits with ulterior motives. Since such "witnesses" always came in pairs, the meaning was accordingly extended, often in the diminutive (testiculus, testiculi).[citation needed]

Another theory says that testis is influenced by a loan translation, from Greek parastatēs "defender (in law), supporter" that is "two glands side by side".[18]

As a food

Testicles of a male calf or other livestock are used to comprise a dish, sometimes called Rocky Mountain oysters.[19]

Gallery

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Blackwell Synergy". Blackwell Synergy. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1046/j.1464-410X.2002.02783.x. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  2. ^ a b Romer, Alfred Sherwood; Parsons, Thomas S. (1977). The Vertebrate Body. Philadelphia, PA: Holt-Saunders International. pp. 385–386. ISBN 0-03-910284-X. 
  3. ^ Scrotal Asymmetry: Right-Left and the scrotum in male sculpture"[1]" By I. C. Manus
  4. ^ Andrology: Male Reproductive Health and Dysfunction"[2]" By E. Nieschlag, Hermann M. Behre, H. van. Ahlen
  5. ^ Histology, A Text and Atlas by Michael H. Ross and Wojciech Pawlina, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 5th ed, 2006
  6. ^ Skinner M, McLachlan R, Bremner W (1989). "Stimulation of Sertoli cell inhibin secretion by the testicular paracrine factor PModS". Mol Cell Endocrinol 66 (2): 239–49. doi:10.1016/0303-7207(89)90036-1. PMID 2515083. 
  7. ^ Online textbook: "Developmental Biology" 6th ed. By Scott F. Gilbert (2000) published by Sinauer Associates, Inc. of Sunderland (MA).
  8. ^ http://www.uwyo.edu/wjm/Repro/spermat.htm
  9. ^ a b http://www.biolreprod.org/cgi/reprint/56/6/1570.pdf BIOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION 56, 1570-1575 (1997)- Determination of Testis Temperature Rhythms and Effects of Constant Light on Testicular Function in the Domestic Fowl (Gallus domesticus)
  10. ^ "Ask a Biologist Q&A / Human sexual physiology - good design?". Askabiologist.org.uk. 2007-09-04. http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/punbb/viewtopic.php?id=653. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  11. ^ "'The Human Body as an Evolutionary Patchwork' by Alan Walker, Princeton.edu". RichardDawkins.net. 2007-04-10. http://richarddawkins.net/article,865,The-Human-Body-as-an-Evolutionary-Patchwork,Alan-Walker-Princetonedu. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  12. ^ Newscientist.com - bumpy-lifestyle-led-to-external-testes
  13. ^ Crane, J.; Scott, R. (2002). "Eubalaena glacialis". Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Eubalaena_glacialis.html. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  14. ^ [S. Khan, J. Rehman, B. Chughtai, D. Sciullo, E. Mohan & H. Rehman: Anatomical Approach to Scrotal Emergencies: A New Paradigm for the Diagnosis and Treatment of the Acute Scrotum. The Internet Journal of Urology. 2010 Volume 6 Number 2. ISSN 1528-8390.
  15. ^ "Varicocele". Kidshealth.org. http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/guys/varicocele.html. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  16. ^ Understanding genetics; Human health and genome Stanford school of medicine, Dr. Barry Starr
  17. ^ Hoag, Hannah. I'll take a girl, please... Cherry-picking from the dish of life. Drexel University Publication.
  18. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
  19. ^ Reviving a very delicate delicacy


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Testicle — Tes ti*cle, n. [L. testiculus, dim. of testis a testicle, probably the same word as testis a witness, as being a witness to manhood. Cf. {Test} a witness.] (Anat.) One of the essential male genital glands which secrete the semen. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • testicle — 1590s, alteration of testicule (early 15c.), from L. testiculus, dim. of testis testicle (see TESTIS (Cf. testis)). The O.E. was herþan, probably originally leather bag (Cf. heorþa deer skin ). The commonest slang terms for them in other… …   Etymology dictionary

  • testicle — ► NOUN ▪ either of the two oval organs that produce sperm in male mammals, enclosed in the scrotum behind the penis. DERIVATIVES testicular adjective. ORIGIN Latin testiculus, from testis a witness (from the idea of a testicle being a ‘witness’… …   English terms dictionary

  • testicle — [tes′ti kəl] n. [L testiculus, dim. of testis, testicle, lit., witness: see TESTIFY] either of two oval sex glands in the male that are suspended in the scrotum and secrete spermatozoa; testis testicular [tes′tik′yo͞o lər] adj …   English World dictionary

  • testicle — n. an undescended testicle * * * an undescended testicle …   Combinatory dictionary

  • testicle — UK [ˈtestɪk(ə)l] / US noun [countable] Word forms testicle : singular testicle plural testicles one of two round male sex organs that hang in a bag of skin behind the penis …   English dictionary

  • testicle — tes|ti|cle [ˈtestıkəl] n [Date: 1400 1500; : Latin; Origin: testiculus small testicle , from testis; TESTIS] one of the two round organs that produce ↑sperm in a male, that are enclosed in a bag of skin behind and below the ↑penis >testicular… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • testicle —   n. male reproductive gland.    ♦ testicular, a.    ♦ testiculate, a. like a testicle in shape …   Dictionary of difficult words

  • testicle — noun Etymology: Middle English testicule, from Latin testiculus, diminutive of testis Date: 15th century testis; especially one of a higher mammal usually with its enclosing structures • testicular adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • testicle — /tes ti keuhl/, n. testis. [1375 1425; late ME < L testiculus. See TESTIS, CLE1] * * * …   Universalium


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.