- Zinc ions play an important role in testis development and spermatogenesis. Thus, nutritional zinc deficiency leads to aberrant testicular development, reduced spermatogenesis, and male sterility. The precise actions of zinc in mediating these functions and the mechanisms by which zinc is itself regulated in the testis, however, have not been adequately elucidated. We have assessed the distribution of the zinc-regulating proteins ZnT-1 and metallothionein I/II (MT I/II) in the mouse seminiferous tubule. Co-labeling for ZnT-1 and MT I/II demonstrated unique patterns of distribution for these proteins, with ZnT-1 present in Sertoli cells in addition to luminal spermatozoa and MT I/II restricted to spermatocytes. These findings were confirmed by dual-label immunofluorescence for ZnT-1 and the Sertoli cell marker, vimentin, and by immunoelectron microscopy. The differential expression patterns of ZnT-1 and MTs support the hypothesis that ZnT-1 and MTs play different roles in the regulation of intracellular zinc in this organ. The specific expression of ZnT-1 in the Sertoli cells, moreover, is consistent with their role in maintaining a nurturing, closely regulated environment for spermatogenesis.