The aging of western societies, and the associated increase in obesity, brings with it an increase in prevalence of disorders such as metabolic syndrome which are associated with reduced androgen levels in men. As Leydig cells are the source of androgens in the male, establishing the mechanisms which control Leydig cell development and function is crucial to our understanding of aging and male health. Sertoli cells regulate testicular fate in the differentiating gonad and are essential for development of the adult Leydig cell population but their role in regulating adult testis function, beyond spermatogenesis, is unclear. To examine the function of the Sertoli cells in adult testis biology we have used a recently described transgenic mouse model which allows controlled, cell-specific ablation of the Sertoli cell population in the adult animal. Results from this model show that the Sertoli cells are required in the adult testis for retention of the normal adult Leydig cell population. Following Sertoli cell ablation, adult Leydig cell numbers declined by 75% although there was a compensatory increase in activity. In the absence of Sertoli cells, PTMC activity was reduced but the cells retained an ability to exclude immune cells from the seminiferous tubules. This data shows that the Sertoli cells are critical for maintenance of the adult Leydig cell population which has significant implications for our understanding of both male reproductive disorders, and wider androgen-related conditions affecting male health.
02 - 04 Sep 2014
World Congress of Reproductive Biology