Cytology of lepidoptera. III. Giant cysts: A morphological trait of apyrene spermatogenesis in an Ephestia kuehniella strain

Klaus Werner Wolf*, Kirsten Baumgart, Walther Traut

*Corresponding author for this work
7 Citations (Scopus)


A comparative investigation of testicular eupyrene cysts (in larvae) and apyrene cysts (in pupae) of Ephestia kuehniella laboratory strains was conducted using light and electron microscopy. Eupyrene cysts in the first meiotic division contained 64 spermatocytes, which showed only moderate asynchrony. In one of the strains, a wild‐type strain, L, normal‐sized cysts occurred together with abnormally large cysts. These are called giant cysts in this article. One of the premeiotic cysts, early giant cysts, studied in detail, contained approximately a fourfold number of cells compared with the number in a eupyrene cyst of the same stage. In cysts harboring spermatocytes and spermatids, late giant cysts, cell differentiation was highly asynchronous. Failure in one of two control mechanisms in early cyst development may have caused the appearance of the cysts. Control of cell division might have been sloppy in apyrene spermatogonia. Hence, the spermatogonia within the cyst could have passed through additional division cycles. Alternatively, the giant cysts may have originated from more than one predefinitive gonial cell enclosed in a common envelope of sheath cells. As a third possibility, giant cysts could have arisen by fusion of normal cysts at a later stage. In either case, this is evidence that separation of eupyrene and apyrene pathways is earlier than was previously expected. In two other Ephestia strains, apyrene sperm development proceeded without formation of giant cysts. One was a mutant strain, a, and the other one was a recently established wild‐type strain, Sbr. Apyrene sperm development is considered an example of degenerate evolution in which enhanced variability between species and even between populations of one species is a common phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGamete Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)353-364
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 07.1988

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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