The studies described herein were designed to examine whether there is a threshold concentration of testosterone (T) within the seminiferous tubules that is required to maintain spermatogenesis in the rat, or alternatively, whether there is a dose-response relationship between the intratesticular T concentration and the maintenance of spermatogenesis. T was administered to intact adult male rats via sustained release polydimethylsiloxane capsules in order to experimentally clamp T at well defined concentrations within the seminiferous tubules. Implantation of T-filled capsules of increasing sizes resulted in linear increases in T concentrations in serum, interstitial fluid, and seminiferous tubule fluid (STF). We examined the effect of step decreases in intratesticular T concentration on the numbers of advanced spermatogenic cells maintained by the testis over a 2-month period. Quantitatively complete spermatogenesis was maintained despite an 80% reduction in the STF T concentration (to ˜ 13 ng/ml) from control values. The ability of the testis to maintain complete spermatogenesis was extremely sensitive to further decreases in STF T concentration. Thus, reduction of the STF T concentration from approximately 13 to 9 ng/ml resulted in a reduction in the number of advanced spermatids that were maintained in the testis by approximately 100 X 106. Reduction of the STF T concentration to approximately 4 ng/ml resulted in a further reduction in the number of advanced spermatids per testis by 100 x 106. Taken together, these data support the contention that there is far more T present within the seminiferous tubules of intact rat testes than is required to maintain quantitatively normal spermatogenesis and reveal for the first time that there is a dose-response relationship between the STF T concentration and the quantitative maintenance of advanced spermatogenic cells in the rat testis.
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