Summary. Male rats were injected with 50 mg ethylene-1,2-dimethanesulphonate/kg from Day 5 to Day 16 after birth and control rats received injections of the same volume of vehicle. Testes were studied at various times from Day 6 to Day 108 using histochemistry, light and electron microscopy. Fine structural degenerative changes were observed in the Leydig cells and seminiferous tubules of EDS-treated animals as early as Day 6. By Day 11 no Leydig cells could be detected and the interstitia of EDStreated testes contained large numbers of fibroblast-like cells which formed peritubular collars 3–5 cells thick; the tubules contained Sertoli cells with heterogeneous inclusions and large numbers of lipid droplets. A small number of Leydig cells was found at Day 14 and their numbers increased so that, in animals of 28 days and older, large clusters of Leydig cells were present between severely atrophic tubules. These tubules contained Sertoli cells with few organelles; germinal cells were not observed after 28 days in EDStreated animals.
These results show that EDS destroys the fetal population of Leydig cells postnatally and this mimics the well documented effect of EDS on adult Leydig cells. The seminiferous tubules were permanently damaged by EDS in the present experiments. Tubular damage could have been due to a direct cytotoxic effect of multiple injections of EDS on the tubule before the blood–testis barrier develops or due to withdrawal of androgen support secondary to Leydig cell destruction.
Keywords: testis; Leydig cell; development; EDS; cytotoxicity; rat