Sertoli, Enrico

views updated


(b. Sondrio, Italy, 6 June 1842; d. Sondrio, 28 January 1910) physiology, histology.

Sertoli studied medicine at the University of Pavia, where, with Giulio Bizzozero and Camillo Golgi, he was a pupil of the physiologist Eusebio Oehl, who systematically developed studies in microscopic anatomy and histology at Pavia. After graduating in 1865, Sertoli moved to Vienna to study physiology under Brücke; but he returned to Italy the following year to take part in the campaign against Austria. After the war, he went to Tübingen in 1867 to work in Hoppe-Seyler’s laboratory there.

From 1870 to 1907 Sertoli was professor of anatomy and physiology, and after 1907 of physiology only, at the Advanced Royal School of Veterinary Medicine in Milan, which, at that time, enjoyed university status. There he founded the Laboratory of Experimental Physiology.

Sertoli was an outstanding exponent of microscopic anatomy. In his first scientific work (1865) he identified and described the branched cells in the seminiferous tubules of the human testicle,which are still known as sertoli cells. This research, carried out under Oehl’s direction at the Pavia institute of physiology, was the starting point for investigation; Sertoli later studied the structure of the testicle and spermatogenesis.

With Hoppe-Seyler, Sertoli reported (1867) on the importance of the blood proteins, and especially of the globulins, as mediators of alkalies in the alternating process of fixation and clearance of carbon dioxide; they discovered that this process is carried out in the capillary beds of the greater and lesser circulation, respectively. Sertoli’s findings in this field were subsequently confirmed by Zuntz and Otto Loewi.

In Milan, Sertoli studied (1882–1883) the persistent excitability and extreme sensitivity to thermal stimuli of the smooth muscles. He is also credited with the first leiomyogram, which he obtained by using the retractor muscle of the penis, which was particularly suitable for the purpose because of its length, uniformity, and parallel fibrocells.


I. Original Works. A list of Sertoli’s publications is given in Pugliese (see below). His major works include “Dell’esistenza di particolari cellule ramificate nei canalicoli seminiferi del testicolo umano,” in Morgagni, 7 (1865), 31–40, with one plate; “Ueber die Bindung der Kohlensäure im Blute und ihre Ausscheidung in der Lunge,” in Medicinsch-chemische Untersuchungen, 2 (1867), 350–365; and in Zentralblatt für die medizinischen Wissenschaften, 6 (1868), 145–147; “Osservazioni sulla struttura dei canalicoli seminiferi del testicolo,” in Gazzetta medica lombarda, 4 d.s. 6 (1871), 413–415; “Sulla struttura dei canalicoli seminiferi del testicolo studiata in rapporto allo sviluppo dei nemaspermi,” ibid., 2 d.s. 7 (1875), 401–403; “Di un pseudo-ermafrodismo in una capra,” in Archivio di medicina veterinaria, 1 (1876), 22–33, written with G. Generali; “Sulla struttura dei canalicoli seminiferi dei testicoli studiata in rapport allo sviluppo dei nemaspermi,” in Archivio per le scienze mediche, 2 (1878), 107–146, 267–295, and plates 3–4; “Contribuzioni alla fisiologia generale dei muscoli lisci,” in Rendiconti dell’lstituto lombardo di scienze e lettere, 15 (1882). 567–582; “Contribution à la physiologie gènèral des muscles lisses,” in Archives italiennes de biologie, 3 (1883), 78–94; “Della cariocinesi nella spermatogenesi,” in Rendiconti dell’lstituto lombardo di scienze e lettere, 18 (1885), 833–839; and “Sur la caryoknèse dans la spermatogénèse,” in Archives italinnes de biologie, 7 (1886), 369–375.

II. Secondary Literature. On Sertoli and his work, see L. Belloni, “Enrico Sertoli in la medicina a Milano dal settecento al 1915,” in Storia di Milano. Fondazione Treccani degli Alfieri, 6 (1962), 1028; A Pugliese, “Henri Sertoli,” in Archives italiennes de biologie, 53 (1910), 161–164; and F. Usuelli, “Enrico Sertoli (1842–1910);” in Annuario veterinario italiano (1934–1935), 455–461.

Bruno Zanobio