Spermatogenesis is characterized by the succession in time and space of specific germ cell associations (stages). There can be a single stage (e.g., rodents and some macaques) or more than one stage (e.g., chimpanzee and human) per tubular cross section. We analyzed the organization of the seminiferous epithelium and quantified testicular germ cell production and apoptosis in a New World primate, the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). Tubule cross sections contained more than one stage, and the human six-stage system could be applied to marmoset spermatogenesis. Stereological (optical disector) analysis (n = 5) revealed high spermatogenic efficiency during meiosis and no loss of spermatids during spermiogenesis. The conversion of type A to type B spermatogonia was several-fold higher than that reported for other primates. Highest apoptotic rates were found for S-phase cells (20%) and 4C cells (15%) by flow cytometric analysis (n = 6 animals); histological analysis confirmed spermatogonial apoptosis. Haploid germ cell apoptosis was <2%. Marmoset spermatogenesis is very efficient and involves substantial spermatogonial proliferation. The prime determinants of germ cell production in primates appear to be proliferation and survival of spermatogonia rather than the efficiency of meiotic divisions. Based on the organizational similarities, common marmosets could provide a new animal model for experimental studies of human spermatogenesis.
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