Effects of human recombinant luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone in patients with acquired hypogonadotropic hypogonadism: study of Sertoli and Leydig cell secretions and interactions

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Sep;85(9):3239-44. doi: 10.1210/jcem.85.9.6811.


Experimental data suggest that FSH-stimulated Sertoli cells can enhance LH-induced Leydig cell testosterone (T) production. The function of Leydig and Sertoli cells can be selectively studied by using recombinant human LH (rhLH) and recombinant human FSH (rhFSH) in patients with complete gonadotropin deficiency. The aim of the present study was to assess the secretion of testicular T, estradiol (E2), and inhibin B and the physiological relevance of the Sertoli-Leydig cell interaction in man. For that purpose, six patients with acquired complete hypogonadotropic hypogonadism received the following treatments for three periods of 1 month in a random order: 1) rhLH, 900 IU/day sc; 2) rhFSH, 150 IU/day sc; and 3) combined rhLH/rhFSH treatments. Each treatment period was separated by a washout period of 15 days. Plasma LH, FSH, T, E2, and inhibin B were measured before and every 10 days during each treatment. During rhLH administration, mean plasma LH levels rose significantly from 0.4 +/- 0.2 IU/L to 11.7 +/- 1.2 IU/L (P < 0.01) and plasma FSH levels did not change. rhFSH administration induced a significant increase in plasma FSH levels (from 0.5 +/- 0.4 to 12.1 +/- 1.4 IU/L; P < 0.01), whereas mean plasma LH levels remained low. Mean plasma E2 levels were unchanged during rhFSH treatment, but they increased significantly during rhLH from 22 +/- 4 to 54 +/- 8 pmol/L (P < 0.01) and during rhLH plus rhFSH administration. rhFSH treatment induced a sustained elevation of mean plasma inhibin B levels from 58 +/- 13 to 175 +/- 25 pg/mL (P < 0.01), similar to the increase occurring during rhFSH plus rhLH administration. In contrast, mean plasma inhibin B levels did not increase during rhLH administration. Finally, a similar and significant increase in mean plasma T levels occurred during both rhLH and rhLH plus rhFSH treatment from 0.9 +/- 0.3 to 5.4 +/- 0.7 nmol/L (P < 0.01) and from 1.0 +/- 0.4 to 6.0 +/- 0.9 nmol/L (P < 0.01), respectively. In contrast, during rhFSH treatment mean plasma T levels remained unchanged when compared with baseline.

In conclusion: 1) the increase of plasma E2 induced by rhLH and the absence of effect of rhFSH confirm that Leydig cells are the major site of testicular E2 production in man; 2) the secretion of inhibin B is increased by rhFSH and not by rhLH, and, thus, Sertoli cells seem to be the main source of inhibin B production; and 3) the increase of plasma T induced by rhLH is not enhanced by rhFSH. These results suggest that the stimulatory effect of FSH on Leydig cell steroidogenesis by a Sertoli cell paracrine factor does not seem to play a major physiologic role in man.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / therapeutic use*
  • Gonadotropins / deficiency*
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism / drug therapy*
  • Hypogonadism / metabolism*
  • Inhibins / blood
  • Leydig Cells / drug effects
  • Leydig Cells / metabolism*
  • Leydig Cells / pathology
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Luteinizing Hormone / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Sertoli Cells / drug effects
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism*
  • Sertoli Cells / pathology
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Time Factors


  • Gonadotropins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Inhibins
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone