Follistatin and activin A production by the male reproductive tract

Richard A Anderson, Lee W Evans, D Stewart Irvine, M A McIntyre, Nigel P Groome, Simon C Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Follistatin is a binding protein for the activin and inhibin family of hormones, regulating their biological activity. In the male reproductive tract, the interaction of these factors is likely to be involved in the regulation of the proliferation of several cell types. We have investigated the presence of follistatin and activin A in seminal plasma using specific immunoassays and have localized follistatin and activin/inhibin subunits in the adult human testis, prostate and seminal vesicle to establish their likely sources. High concentrations of immunoreactive follistatin were present in seminal plasma in normal men (mean 97.9 ng/ml; 1.43 ng/ml in peripheral plasma) and were similar in men with oligo/azoospermia and following vasectomy. Follistatin immunoreactivity was localized to both Leydig and Sertoli cells of the testis, and to epithelial cells of the prostate gland and seminal vesicle, which are likely to be the predominant sources of the hormone in seminal plasma. Activin A was also present in seminal plasma in normal men but was undetectable following vasectomy, thus deriving from the testis. Consistent with this finding, the betaA-subunit was immunolocalized in Sertoli and Leydig cells but was not present in seminal vesicle or prostate gland. The functional significance of the high concentrations of follistatin secreted into seminal plasma by the prostate gland and/or seminal vesicle is uncertain, but they may regulate the biological activity of testis-derived activin A and inhibin B.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3319-3325
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1998


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