Altered structure and function of reproductive organs in transgenic male mice overexpressing human aromatase

Endocrinology. 2001 Jun;142(6):2435-42. doi: 10.1210/endo.142.6.8211.


Aromatization of androgens is a key step in estrogen production, and it regulates the delicate balance between estrogens and androgens in the gonads and sex steroid target tissues. In the present study, we generated transgenic mice (AROM(+)) bearing the human ubiquitin C promoter/human P450 aromatase fusion gene. AROM(+) male mice are characterized by an imbalance in sex hormone metabolism, resulting in elevated serum E(2) concentrations, combined with significantly reduced testosterone and FSH levels, and elevated levels of PRL and corticosterone. AROM(+) males present a multitude of severe structural and functional alterations in the reproductive organs, such as cryptorchidism associated with Leydig cell hyperplasia, dysmorphic seminiferous tubules, and disrupted spermatogenesis. The males also have small or rudimentary accessory sex glands with abnormal morphology; a prominent prostatic utricle with squamous epithelial metaplasia, and edema in the ejaculatory ducts and vas deferens. In addition, the abdominal muscle wall is thin, and the adrenal glands are enlarged, with cortical hyperplasia. Some of the abnormalities, such as undescended testes and undeveloped prostate, resemble those observed in animals exposed perinatally to high levels of exogenous estrogen, indicating that the elevated aromatase activity results in excessive estrogen exposure during early phases of development. Some of the disorders in the reproductive organs, furthermore, can be explained by the fact that AROM(+) males are hypoandrogenic, and have elevated levels of serum PRL and corticosterone. Thus, the AROM(+) mouse model provides a novel tool to investigate the consequences of a prolonged increase in conversion of androgens to estrogens which results in complex hormonal disturbances altering the structure and function of various male reproductive organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / abnormalities
  • Adrenal Cortex / pathology
  • Animals
  • Aromatase / genetics*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Cryptorchidism / enzymology
  • Cryptorchidism / genetics
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genitalia, Male / abnormalities
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Leydig Cells / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Prostate / abnormalities
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Seminiferous Tubules / abnormalities
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Ubiquitins / genetics


  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Ubiquitins
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Prolactin
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Aromatase
  • Corticosterone