Estrogen in the adult male reproductive tract: A review

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Testosterone and estrogen are no longer considered male only and female only hormones. Both hormones are important in both sexes. It was known as early as the 1930's that developmental exposure to a high dose of estrogen causes malformation of the male reproductive tract, but the early formative years of reproductive biology as a discipline did not recognize the importance of estrogen in regulating the normal function of the adult male reproductive tract. In the adult testis, estrogen is synthesized by Leydig cells and the germ cells, producing a relatively high concentration in rete testis fluid. Estrogen receptors are present in the testis, efferent ductules and epididymis of most species. However, estrogen receptor-α is reported absent in the testis of a few species, including man. Estrogen receptors are abundant in the efferent ductule epithelium, where their primary function is to regulate the expression of proteins involved in fluid reabsorption. Disruption of the α-receptor, either in the knockout (αERKO) or by treatment with a pure antiestrogen, results in dilution of cauda epididymal sperm, disruption of sperm morphology, inhibition of sodium transport and subsequent water reabsorption, increased secretion of Cl-, and eventual decreased fertility. In addition to this primary regulation of luminal fluid and ion transport, estrogen is also responsible for maintaining a differentiated epithelial morphology. Thus, we conclude that estrogen or its α-receptor is an absolute necessity for fertility in the male.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalReproductive Biology and Endocrinology
StatePublished - Jul 9 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology


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