Morphology and seasonality of the sexual segment of the kidney in genus Bothrops snakes

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In Squamata, the sexual segment of the male kidney (SSK) produces secretory granules that are transmitted to the female tract during copulation. Here, we investigate the morphology of SSK in various species of the pitviper-genus Bothrops, a medically relevant clade of Neotropical snakes, using histology, histochemistry, as well as scanning and transmission electron microscopy. We also evaluated the relationship of SSK hypertrophy with spermatogenesis and storage of sperm. The SSK in Bothrops consists of tall columnar epithelial cells filled with electron-dense secretory granules. These granules are apparently released into the lumen by an apocrine secretory process. In general, the ultrastructural morphology of SSK in Bothrops is similar to those described for other pitvipers in the genus Agkistrodon. In most Bothrops males, the SSK produces carbohydrates and proteins, and occurs in all lobes of the kidney, occupying most of the kidney mass. In contrast, intersexual females (with male copulatory organs) of Bothrops insularis had a smaller SSK diameter than males and did not show hypertrophy. The seasonal development of SSK in Bothrops species seems to be driven by environmental factors rather than phylogeny, since sister species exhibited periods of hypertrophy at different months. In most Bothrops males, hypertrophy occurs at various seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn), even in winter, and seasonal changes in SSK do not necessarily accompany spermatogenesis.
Silva KMP, Almeida-Santos SM, Lobo LM, Bravo-Vega CA, Rici REG, Sasa M. Morphology and seasonality of the sexual segment of the kidney in genus Bothrops snakes. J. Morphol. 2022 Feb;283(2):236-249. doi:10.1002/jmor.21439.
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