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Jane N. Scott, H. Ira Fritz and F. Nagy

Summary. Adult male opossums, Didelphis virginiana, were rendered hemicryptorchid for 35 days. The cryptorchid testis exhibited a significant reduction in weight, while the contralateral testis had a compensatory weight gain compared with testes of untreated animals. Histological changes in the cryptorchid testis included fibrosis of the tunica propria, involution of the seminiferous tubules and an apparent increase in the interstitial tissue. Many seminiferous tubules were empty and germinal cells were absent. Some Sertoli cells persisted, but the cytoplasm was vacuolated. Cryptorchid testes were characterized by mononuclear leucocytic invasion around the tubules, and some eosinophils were observed. Cryptorchidism in the opossum may induce a reaction similar to experimental orchitis.

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The influence of a cryptorchid milieu on the initiation of spermatogenesis was studied, utilizing the technique of transplantation of newborn rat testes into cryptorchid testes of adult hosts. The histological changes in the host and the transplanted testes were evaluated at various periods after transplantation. The transplant showed progressive growth and differentiation of the germ cells up to mid-pachytene stage within 30 days of transplantation into the cryptorchid testes. Thereafter, further progression of spermatogenesis did not occur and the germ cells gradually degenerated. Within 60 days, the seminiferous tubules in the transplant were lined by a layer of Sertoli cells and were comparable in appearance to the host tissue. In another group of animals where the cryptorchid testis was returned to the scrotum at the time of transplantation, both initiation and completion of spermatogenesis were observed. The results indicate that a cryptorchid milieu does not interfere with the initiation of spermatogenesis, but prevents its progression and maintenance.

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Y. Tajima, K. Sakamaki, D. Watanabe, U. Koshimizu, T. Matsuzawa and Y. Nishimune

Summary. The effects of Steel–Dickie (Sld) mutations on testicular germ cell differentiation were investigated using experimental cryptorchidism and its surgical reversal in mutant, C57BL/6-Sld/+ and wild-type C57BL/6- +/+ mice. In Sld/+ cryptorchid testes the maintenance of undifferentiated type-A spermatogonia was impaired and their numbers decreased. In contrast, the proliferative activity of type-A spermatogonia in the cryptorchid testis of mutant mice appeared normal as judged by their progression through the cell cycle. Surgical reversal of cryptorchidism resulted in regenerative differentiation of mature germ cells in +/+ testes. However, the regenerative differentiation of type-A spermatogonia which remained in Sld/+ cryptorchid testes was strongly impaired, particularly at two steps of cellular differentiation, from type-A spermatogonia to intermediate or type-B spermatogonia and at meiotic division. Furthermore, in mutant mice, no significant recovery of testicular weight was observed after surgical reversal compared with +/+ mice.

Keywords: Sld mutation; testis; germ cell; Sertoli cell; cryptorchidism; mouse

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Lais Cavalca Cardoso, Aline Rosa Nascimento, Carine Royer, Catarina Segreti Porto and Maria Fatima Magalhaes Lazari

We have previously shown that the rat testis and vas deferens contain high levels of the relaxin receptor, RXFP1. The present study was undertaken to determine the expression of relaxin in these tissues, and the effect of exogenous relaxin on Sertoli cell proliferation and on the mRNA levels of some proteins that may contribute to epithelial secretion and tissue reorganization in the vas deferens. Relaxin mRNA levels in testis and vas deferens were much lower than in the prostate. Sertoli cells seem to be an important source of relaxin mRNA in testis. Relaxin immunoreactivity was detected in the seminiferous epithelium but not in the interstitial compartment. The relaxin precursor was expressed in the vas deferens, and relaxin immunoreactivity was detected in apical cells of the vas deferens. Castration, but not treatment with the anti-estrogen ICI 182,780, dramatically reduced relaxin mRNA levels in the prostate and vas deferens, and this effect was prevented by testosterone. Rxfp1 mRNA levels in the vas deferens and prostate were not affected by castration or treatment with ICI 182,780. Exogenous relaxin increased the incorporation of 3H-thymidine in cultured Sertoli cells, and treatment of the vas deferens with 100 ng/ml relaxin increased the mRNA levels for the cystic fibrosis chloride channel (cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator) about three times, and doubled mRNA levels for the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase and metalloproteinase 7. These results suggest that locally produced relaxin acts as an autocrine or paracrine agent in the testis and vas deferens to affect spermatogenesis and seminal fluid composition.

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G. P. Risbridger, A. E. Drummond, J. B. Kerr and D. M. de Kretser

Summary. There was a significant (P < 0·05) and consistent increase in the potency of steroidogenic stimulatory activity (testosterone production by purified Leydig cells in vitro) in testicular interstitial fluid of the cryptorchid compared to the scrotal testis from 1 to 4 weeks after the induction of unilateral cryptorchidism. In contrast, the level of mitogenic activity ([3H]thymidine incorporation into 3T3 cells) was not significantly different between interstitial fluid from cryptorchid and scrotal testes for up to 4 weeks after surgery. These results indicate that the steroidogenic activity and the mitogenic activity are due to different, as yet unidentified, factors in testicular interstitial fluid.

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P. van der Schoot

Summary. Exposure of rats in utero to the anti-androgen flutamide resulted in feminization of the external genitalia that was noticeable at birth. This exposure also resulted in a high degree of cryptorchidism during adulthood. In most affected animals, testes were lying in 'ovary position' close to the caudal pole of the ipsilateral kidney. Cryptorchidism occurred despite normal prenatal development of the gubernacular cones and the transformation of these structures, postnatally, into muscular cremaster sacs.

Inter- and intralitter variation in the response to prenatal exposure to flutamide was observed as well as intra-individual variation. Cryptorchidism frequently occurred unilaterally with right side cryptorchidism predominating.

Cryptorchidism occurred in association with marked suppression of the growth of the ipsilateral epididymis and deferent duct. The possibility is considered that the poor development or absence of these structures contributes to cryptorchidism. Intra-individual variation supports the concept of the local nature of the influence of testis hormones in stabilization and further differentiation of the ipsilateral Wolffian duct derivatives.

Cryptorchidism was enhanced when rats were treated postnatally with testosterone or oestradiol. The effect of testosterone was unexpected in view of the generally held hypothesis that androgens enhance testis descent. The effect of oestradiol was as expected: other animal models have been described in which induction of cryptorchidism by oestradiol occurs. Additional treatment with oestradiol caused further suppression of growth of the epididymis and deferent duct.

The response to prenatal exposure to flutamide was not altered by further injections of flutamide postnatally. Such injections were without effect in males not exposed to flutamide prenatally except for minor, but statistically significant, testicular enlargement during adulthood.

A model is thus presented that describes cryptorchidism as an endogenous developmental disorder.

Keywords: anti-androgen; flutamide; testis descent; cryptorchidism

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A. K. Susheela and A. Kumar

Summary. Fluoride was orally administered to rabbits at 10 mg NaF/kg body weight for 18 or 29 months. The animals were then killed and the structure of the testis, epididymis and vas deferens studied under light and scanning electron microscopes. In animals treated for 29 months, the spermatogenic cells in the seminiferous tubules were disrupted, degenerated and devoid of spermatozoa. In animals treated for 18 or 29 months, loss of cilia on the epithelial cells lining the lumen of the ductuli efferentes of the caput epididymidis and of stereocilia on the epithelial cells lining the lumen of the vas deferens was observed. In some regions of the epithelial lining of the lumen of the ductuli efferentes and vas deferens, the boundaries of the cells were not clear and appeared to be peeled off. Mucus droplets were abundant in the vas deferens of control animals, but absent in both the treated groups. Spermatogenesis ceased only in animals treated for 29 months. The difference in the structural changes observed in the testes of the 2 treated groups may have been due to the blood–testis barrier. It is concluded that ingestion of high concentrations of fluoride has harmful effects on the male reproductive system.

Keywords: fluoride toxicity; spermatogenesis; ductuli efferentes; rabbit

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R. M. Sharpe

Summary. The specific testicular uptake in vivo of 125I-labelled hCG was compared in control adult rats and adult rats made bilaterally cryptorchid 5 weeks previously. Although a similar temporal pattern of uptake was observed in both groups, uptake of hCG by cryptorchid testes was reduced at all times after injection by up to 70%. The possible causes of this impairment were investigated. It could not be accounted for by differences in the rate of absorption or clearance of 125I-labelled hCG in the two groups. Therefore, because hCG-induced increase in the permeability of testicular capillaries is a crucial factor in determining hCG uptake by the testis, this change was compared in control and cryptorchid testes. Although hCG induced a characteristic increase in testicular capillary wall permeability in both groups, this change was temporally delayed in cryptorchid testes, and occurred after hCG values in the blood had fallen. Even when hCG had crossed the capillary wall into testicular interstitial fluid, its uptake into the testicular tissue was significantly lower in cryptorchid than in control testes. These changes probably account for the impairment of gonadotrophin uptake by the cryptorchid testis and have important implications with respect to the aetiology of Leydig cell changes in cryptorchidism.

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C. Taragnat, M. Berger and Cl. Jean

Summary. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis revealed that the vas deferens of adult mouse contains a major protein. Mouse vas deferens protein is a basic glycoprotein with a molecular weight of 34 800 ± 300. The protein represents 17 ± 0·7% and 42 ± 2·4% of soluble proteins from homogenate and luminal fluid respectively, an estimate based on densitometric scanning of polyacrylamide gels. The protein originated from the vas deferens since it was not detected in blood plasma or in sexual organs and it was still present after ligation of the epididymis.

Changes in androgen status of the animal markedly affected the vas deferens protein. After castration a progressive decrease in the protein was observed and its relative percentage dropped to 2 ± 0·4% after 45 days. The concentration of the protein returned to precastration levels after 2 weeks of testosterone treatment but oestradiol, progesterone and corticosterone were ineffective in this respect. The vas deferens protein was not synthesized in significant amounts until animals were 20 days old and its concentration increased rapidly from 20 to 30 days in concert with the pubertal increase of androgens in the vas deferens.

Keywords: vas deferens; major protein; androgens; mouse

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EJ Peirce, HD Moore, CM Leigh and WG Breed

The cauda epididymidis, with its relatively cool temperature (32-35 degrees C), is considered to be the main site of sperm storage in male mammals. However, in the adult male spinifex hopping mouse, Notomys alexis, similar numbers of spermatozoa are found in the vas deferens to those in the cauda epididymidis. The present study shows that, unlike in the laboratory mouse in which spermatozoa of the vas deferens are found mainly in the epididymal region of the duct, spermatozoa in the hopping mouse are localized mainly to the middle and urethral regions of the vas deferens which lies in the inguinal and lower abdominal region of the body cavity. After ligation of the vas deferens close to its connection with the epididymis, many spermatozoa in the vas deferens retain the potential for motility for up to 2 weeks, indicating that the viability of spermatozoa is not compromised by being restricted to core body temperature. This urethral region of the vas deferens, in which spermatozoa reside, has a highly divergent structural organization compared with that of common laboratory rodents in which there is an expanded lumen with a network of epithelial folds. Ultrastructural observations of the cells lining the duct indicate that there are not any marked differences in morphology compared with the cells lining the duct in common laboratory murids, but the infoldings of the vas deferens of the hopping mouse are highly vascular which might facilitate supply of oxygen and nutrients to the spermatozoa residing in the lumen.