Evidence that androgens and oestrogens, as well as follicle-stimulating hormone, can alter Sertoli cell number in the neonatal rat

Nina N Atanassova, Marion Walker, Chris McKinnell, Jane S Fisher, Richard M Sharpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Neonatal treatment of male rats with diethylstilboestrol (DES) or a gonadotrophin-releasing hormone antagonist (GnRHa) reduces final Sertoli cell number, an effect presumed to occur via suppression of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). As both treatments also suppress androgen action, we investigated whether androgens and oestrogens might affect Sertoli cell nuclear volume/number in the rat using single or combined treatments that differentially affected FSH, testosterone and oestrogen (DES) levels. Neonatal treatment with flutamide (50 mg/ kg) significantly reduced Sertoli cell nuclear volume/ number per testis and blood inhibin-B levels at day 18, despite elevating FSH levels; this treatment also exacerbated the reduction in Sertoli cell nuclear volume per testis induced by treatment with 0.1 mug DES without affecting FSH levels. Treatment with 0.1 mug DES on its own also reduced Sertoli cell nuclear volume per testis without affecting FSH/testosterone levels, but co-administration of 0.1 mug DES+GnRHa, which suppressed FSH and testosterone levels, resulted in a markedly greater effect. Treatment with GnRHa alone or 10 mug DES alone grossly suppressed FSH and testosterone levels and reduced Sertoli cell nuclear volume/number per testis by approximately 60%, but co-administration of the two treatments had no greater effect than either alone. Co-administration of testosterone esters with 10 mug DES partially prevented the 10 mug DES-induced reduction in Sertoli cell nuclear volume per testis, and normalized FSH levels. In all treatment groups, plasma levels of inhibin-B paralleled changes in Sertoli cell nuclear volume/number per testis, but treatments that suppressed FSH levels (GnRHa, 10 mug DES) caused a proportionately greater reduction (approximately 90%) in inhibin-B levels than in Sertoli cell nuclear volume/number (50-60%). Germ cell volume per unit Sertoli cell was reduced in animals treated with 10 mug DES alone or in those treated with 0.1 mug DES plus either flutmaide or GnRHa, but otherwise remained relatively constant between treatment groups. It is concluded that, in the neonatal rat, (1) endogenous androgens, as well as FSH, play a physiological role in increasing Sertoli cell number, (2) exogenous oestrogen exposure can decrease Sertoli cell number without altering FSH levels, (3) these effects probably share a common pathway and (4) blood inhibin-B provides a robust indicator of change in Sertoli cell number.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-17
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Volume184
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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