Intrinsic neuron-like cells expressing the catecholamine-biosynthetic enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) were recently identified in the testis of the prepubertal rhesus monkey. In this study, we characterized the neuron-like nature of these cells and examined distribution and frequency of neuronal elements in the testes of monkeys during postnatal development, puberty and adulthood. Using immunohistochemical methods, we detected both nerve fibers and cell bodies, immunoreactive for the neuronal markers neurofilament 200 (NF-200) and synaptosomal associated protein of 25 kDa (SNAP-25), TH and neuropeptide Y (NPY) in perivascular locations, intermingled with interstitial cells and close to the wall of seminiferous tubules. Marked age-related differences in the numbers of these neuronal elements became apparent, when we quantified NF-200-immunoreactive neuronal elements. Thus, intrinsic neuron-like cell bodies were found only in the testes from immature animals (i.e. , until about 3 years of age). Conversely, nerve fibers, presumably representing mainly the extrinsic innervation, were observed at all ages although they became more prominent after the pubertal increase in LH and testosterone levels. Interestingly, another testicular cell type known to contain potent regulatory substances, mast cells, was found to be in close anatomical proximity to nerve fibers. The number of these cells, positively identified with an antibody to tryptase, increased significantly after puberty following the same pattern as nerve fibers. These results confirm that the testicular nervous system of the monkey is composed of two components, intrinsic nerve cells and extrinsic fibers, both of which are catecholaminergic and peptidergic in nature. Furthermore, both components show a marked degree of plasticity during development, especially around the time of puberty. The intratesticular locations of neuron-like cells and fibers suggest that catecholamines and neuropeptides are likely to have multiple sites of actions, and may affect Leydig cells, cells of the tubular wall and vascular cells directly and/or indirectly via intermediation of mast cells.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel.