Assessment of testicular testosterone production and Leydig cell structure

L. L. Ewing, B. R. Zirkin, C. Chubb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Advances in two techniques have made the problem of assessing the acute and/or chronic effects of toxic agents on Leydig cell structure and testosterone synthesis and secretion amenable to study. First, in vitro testicular perfusion has been perfected to a point where it closely resembles in situ testosterone secretion. Second, now it is possible to quantify the proportion of Leydig cell cytoplasm occupied by the cellular organelles which contain steroidogenic enzymes. Herein, we report that inhibition of Leydig cell steroidogenic enzymes is reflected by reduced testosterone secretion by in vitro perfused rat and rabbit testes. Moreover, the activity of specific steroidogenic reactions can be monitored by measuring the secretion of reaction substrate(s) and product(s) from in vitro perfused testes. Testosterone secretion by in vitro perfused testes from five species is highly and positively correlated with the volume density of smooth endoplasmic reticulum in Leydig cell cytoplasm. Exploitation of these findings will allow toxicologists to quantitatively assess the effect of toxicants on Leydig cell testosterone biosynthesis and secretion, to identify the specific steroidogenic enzymes affected, to assess whether the membranous environment of the steroidogenic enzymes is compromised, and perhaps even to predict the deleterious effect of a toxic agent on Leydig cell steroidogenic function from a stereological assessment of Leydig cell ultrastructure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-27
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
VolumeVol. 38
StatePublished - 1981
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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