A previous electron microscopic study of the cat testis revealed that spermatids derived from the same spermatogonium are joined together by intercellular bridges. The present paper records the observation of similar connections between spermatocytes and between spermatids in Hydra, fruit-fly, opossum, pigeon, rat, hamster, guinea pig, rabbit, monkey, and man. In view of these findings, it is considered likely that a syncytial relationship within groups of developing male germ cells is of general occurrence and is probably responsible for their synchronous differentiation. When clusters of spermatids, freshly isolated from the germinal epithelium are observed by phase contrast microscopy, the constrictions between the cellular units of the syncytium disappear and the whole group coalesces into a spherical multinucleate mass. The significance of this observation in relation to the occurrence of abnormal spermatozoa in semen and the prevalence of multinucleate giant cells in pathological testes is discussed.
In the ectoderm of Hydra, the clusters of cnidoblasts that arise from proliferation of interstitial cells are also connected by intercellular bridges. The development of nematocysts within these groups of conjoined cells is precisely synchronized.
Both in the testis of vertebrates and the ectoderm of Hydra, a syncytium results from incomplete cytokinesis in the proliferation of relatively undifferentiated cells. The intercellular bridges between daughter cells are formed when the cleavage furrow encounters the spindle remnant and is arrested by it. The subsequent dissolution of the spindle filaments establishes free communication between the cells. The discovery of intercellular bridges in the two unrelated tissues discussed here suggests that a similar syncytial relationship may be found elsewhere in nature where groups of cells of common origin differentiate synchronously.