Adult testicular enlargement induced by neonatal hypothyroidism is accompanied by increased sertoli and germ cell numbers

Rex A. Hess, Paul S. Cooke, David Bunick, John D. Kirby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our previous studies have shown that transient neonatal hypothyroidism, induced by treatment with the reversible goitrogen 6-propyl-2-thiouracil (PTU), increases testicular size and daily sperm production in the adult rat by up to 82% and 136%, respectively. The objective of the present study was to examine morphological and functional changes in adult seminiferous tubules associated with PTU-induced increases in testicular size and sperm production. Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with PTU from birth to day 25 or left untreated; for morphometry, all testes were fixed by vascular perfusion at 90 days of age. Although testicular weight was increased 62% in treated rats, gross pathological changes were not evident in these organs, and spermatogenesis appeared morphologically normal. The percent area of testis occupied by seminiferous tubules was equal in control and treated testes, but mean seminiferous tubule diameter and length were increased in the PTU-treated testis. The adult number of Sertoli cells in treated testes was increased by 157%, and the numbers of leptotene spermatocytes and round spermatids were increased 84% and 93%, respectively. These results demonstrate that increases in Sertoli cell numbers result in increased sperm production and support the idea that Sertoli cells are the major regulators of the magnitude of sperm production. Although the round spermatid to Sertoli cell ratio was reduced by nearly 30%, the number of round spermatids per g testis was increased by 14%. This increased efficiency of sperm production was accomplished by an increased density of Sertoli cells along the basement membrane and an increased height of the seminiferous epithelium. Despite the large increase in Sertoli cell numbers in treated rats, Northern blot analysis using Sertoli cell-specific cDNA probes for transferrin and androgen-binding protein indicated that relative steady state levels of mRNAs per Sertoli cell for these two secretory proteins were similar in control and treated rats at 90 days of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2607-2613
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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