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Testis, Seminiferous Tubule -Vacuolation

Image of seminiferous tubule vacuolation in the testis from a male Harlan Sprague-Dawley rat
Testis, Seminiferous tubule - Vacuolation in a male Harlan Sprague-Dawley rat from a reproductive and continuous breeding study. Vacuolation in basal Sertoli cell cytoplasm (arrows). PAS stain.
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Image of seminiferous tubule vacuolation in the testis from a male Harlan Sprague-Dawley rat
Testis, Seminiferous tubule - Vacuolation in a control male Harlan Sprague-Dawley rat. Seminiferous tubules vacuoles (arrows). (Photograph courtesy of Dr. D. Creasy.)
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Seminiferous tubule vacuolation can be microvacuolar or macrovacuolar in appearance. Microvacuolation generally occurs in the basal Sertoli cell cytoplasm ( Figure 1image opens in a pop-up window , arrows), and macrovacuolation appears as one or a few vacuoles within the depth of the seminiferous epithelium ( Figure 2image opens in a pop-up window , arrows). In most cases, the vacuoles are within or between Sertoli cells. They may contain fluid or lipid, or they may represent dilation of endoplasmic reticulum or intercellular spaces. Ultrastructural studies can be helpful to determine their origin. Vacuolation of Sertoli cells is a common early feature of morphologic injury to Sertoli cells that may be seen in studies of 28 days or less duration, prior to any germ cell degeneration. Alternatively, vacuoles often accompany generalized germinal cell degeneration/atrophy, where they probably represent spaces left by the missing germ cells. Vacuoles can often be seen as an incidental finding in occasional tubules in control testes ( Figure 2image opens in a pop-up window , arrows) and may increase in incidence and/or severity over time.


Seminiferous tubule vacuolation should be diagnosed and graded and should be discussed in the pathology narrative if the incidence and/or severity appears to be related to chemical administration. If present in both testes, the vacuolation should be recorded as bilateral and the severity grade based on the more severely affected testis.


Creasy DM. 2001. Pathogenesis of male reproductive toxicity. Toxicol Pathol 29:64-76.
Full Text:

Creasy D, Bube A, de Rijk E, Kandori H, Kuwahara M, Masson R, Nolte T, Reams R, Regan K, Rehm S, Rogerson P, Whitney K. (2012). Proliferative and nonproliferative lesions of the rat and mouse male reproductive system. Toxicol Pathol 40:40S-121S.

Hild SA, Reel JR, Larener JM, Blye RP. 2001. Disruption of spermatogenesis and Sertoli cell structure and function by the indenopyridine CDB-4022 in rats. Biol Reprod 65:1771-1779.

Kerr JB, Savage GN, Millar M, Sharpe RM. 1993. Response of the seminiferous epithelium of the rat testis to withdrawal of androgen: Evidence for direct effect upon intercellular spaces associated with Sertoli cell junctional complexes. Cell Tissue Res 274:153-161.

NTP is located at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.