The morphology and innervation of the testicular artery and pampiniform plexus of the guinea-pig was investigated using light immunohistochemistry as well as transmission and scanning electron microscopy. The tortuous, spiraled testicular artery embedded within the epididymal fat pad is totally encompassed by a thin-walled sinus-like labyrinthine structure comprising the pampiniform plexus. Characteristic features of this lacunar system are: 1. Endothelial bridges, strands or trabeculae of various length, width and thickness which project into the lumen, occasionally branch, and attach to the opposite or adjacent area of the venous wall. 2. A frequent discontinuous smooth muscular layer.
Nerve fibers were localized by use of antibodies against dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DBH-IR), neuropeptide Y (NPY-IR), and substance P (SP-IR). A great abundance of NPY-IR and DBH-IR axon bundles are seen surrounding the testicular artery. Fibers emanating from this dense plexus travel into the interstitium to finally innervate the walls of the sinus-like system, including the cross-luminal trabeculae. In contrast, larger varicosities are distinctive for SP-IR fibers which are also located at the media-adventitia border of the arterial and venous walls but to a far lesser extent than that seen with DBH-IR or NPY-IR.
The axon varicosities supplying the arterial and venous walls contain a heterogeneous population of various types of vesicles, mostly including small agranular and granular ones as well as large granular vesicles of various size and density. The most conspicuous feature concerning the innervation pattern of the venous wall is the occurrence of numerous neuroendothelial contact zones.
The findings of the investigated ‘rete mirabile’ are discussed with respect to rheology and temperature control for the maintenance of normal spermatogenesis.