Inhibin B in seminal plasma: testicular origin and relationship to spermatogenesis

Richard A Anderson, D S Irvine, Claire Balfour, Nigel P Groome, Simon C Riley

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In men, inhibin B is the circulating isoform involved in the regulation of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) secretion. Within the testis, inhibin B may have a role in Sertoli and germ cell interactions, thus secretion into seminal plasma may reflect seminiferous tubule function. Using specific immunoassays, inhibin B was present in seminal plasma in fertile men (n = 105) and in unselected men attending an infertility clinic (n = 174) with a wide range in concentration from undetectable (<15 pg/ml) up to 54,100 pg/ml (geometric mean 280 pg/ml). There was a highly significant correlation between seminal plasma inhibin B concentration and sperm concentration (r = 0.46, P < 0.001), but no correlation with percentages of spermatozoa with progressive motility or normal morphology. Inhibin A and isoforms containing pro and alphaC immunoreactivity were not detectable. In post-vasectomy seminal plasma samples (18 of 20) inhibin B was undetectable, indicating that the testis is the predominant source. In unselected men attending an infertility clinic, inhibin B was undetectable in 17% (present in remainder; maximum concentration 26,200 pg/ml; mean 263 pg/ml), with a highly significant correlation between seminal plasma inhibin B and sperm concentration (r = 0.55, P < 0.0001). In men with oligo/ azoospermia (sperm concentration <20 x 10(6)/ml), seminal plasma inhibin B concentrations were lower in those with elevated plasma FSH concentrations (mean values 42 and 205 pg/ml, P < 0.05). Inhibin alpha and betaB subunits were localized predominantly in Sertoli and Leydig cells, using immunohistochemistry. We conclude that inhibin B of testicular origin is present in normal human seminal plasma, but with a very wide range in concentration, and may reflect the functional state of the seminiferous epithelium.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)920-926
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1998


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