Hyperplasia and hypertrophy of the gubernaculum during testicular descent in the fetus
The role of the gubernaculum during testicular descent was investigated in 115 male pig fetuses ranging from 68 to 109 days of gestation. Descent of the testis through the inguinal canal occurred between 77 and 94 days. There was a marked increase in the total and relative wet mass as well as the wet/dry mass ratio of the gubernaculum, denoting an increase in the water content of this structure during descent of the testis. Similar changes were not seen in other fetal tissues. Asymmetrical descent of the testes occurred in seven of the 40 fetuses between 81 and 92 days of gestation. Descended testes had gubernacula with a greater relative wet mass than the gubernacula of undescended testes. These findings indicate that the increase in mass of the gubernaculum plays an important part in testicular descent. An increase in both the DNA content (hyperplasia) and the RNA/DNA ratio (hypertrophy) was noted in the gubernaculum during descent of the testis. Hyperplasia in the gubernaculum occurred at a rapid rate initially and ceased after the completion of descent. Hyperplasia was also seen in the testis and epididymis, but occurred at a slower rate initially, with a rapid acceleration after the completion of descent. Cellular hypertrophy was not noted in the testis and epididymis, but did occur in umbilical cord tissue. If gonadotropins acting via androgen secretion by the testis provide the stimulus for these changes, the observed difference in response between the gubernaculum and testis could be due to a difference in end-organ sensitivity. However, it is also possible that some unidentified non-androgenic gubernaculotropin, possibly secreted by the fetal testis, provides the stimulus for gubernacular growth.