European Journal of Endocrinology

 MECHANISMS IN ENDOCRINOLOGY: Hormonal regulation of spermatogenesis: mutant mice challenging old paradigms

The two pituitary gonadotrophins, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and in particular LH-stimulated high intratesticular testosterone (ITT) concentration, are considered crucial for spermatogenesis. We have revisited these concepts in genetically modified mice, one being the LH receptor (R)-knockout mouse (LuRKO), the other a transgenic mouse expressing in Sertoli cells a highly constitutively active mutated Fshr (Fshr-CAM). It was found that full spermatogenesis was induced by exogenous testosterone treatment in LuRKO mice at doses that restored ITT concentration to a level corresponding to the normal circulating testosterone level in WT mice, 5 nmol/L, which is 1.4% of the normal high ITT concentration. When hypogonadal LuRKO and Fshr-CAM mice were crossed, the double-mutant mice with strong FSH signaling, but minimal testosterone production, showed near-normal spermatogenesis, even when their residual androgen action was blocked with the strong antiandrogen flutamide. In conclusion, our findings challenge two dogmas of the hormonal regulation of male fertility: (1) high ITT concentration is not necessary for spermatogenesis and (2) strong FSH stimulation can maintain spermatogenesis without testosterone. These findings have clinical relevance for the development of hormonal male contraception and for the treatment of idiopathic oligozoospermia.