The role of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1 in the mammalian testis and their involvement in testicular torsion and autoimmune orchitis

Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2004 Mar 10;2:9. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-2-9.


This review will focus the roles of TNF-alpha, IL-1 alpha, and IL-1 beta in the mammalian testis and in two testicular pathologies, testicular torsion and orchitis. TNF alpha in the testis is produced by round spermatids, pachytene spermatocytes, and testicular macrophages. The type 1 TNF receptor has been found on Sertoli and Leydig cells and numerous studies suggest a paracrine mode of action for TNF alpha in the normal testis. IL-1 alpha has been reported to be produced by Sertoli cells, testicular macrophages, and possibly postmeiotic germ cells. IL-1 receptors have been reported on Sertoli cells, Leydig cells, testicular macrophages, and germ cells suggesting both autocrine and paracrine functions. While these proinflammatory cytokines have important roles in normal testicular homeostasis, an elevation of their expression can lead to testicular dysfunctions. Testicular torsion is a clinical pathology with results in testicular ischemia and surgical intervention is often required for reperfusion. A pivotal role for IL-1beta in the pathology of testicular torsion has been recently described whereby an increase in IL-1beta production after reperfusion of the testis is correlated with the activation of the stress-related kinase, c-jun N-terminal kinase, and ultimately resulting in neutrophil recruitment to the testis and germ cell apoptosis. In autoimmune orchitis, on the other hand, TNF alpha produced by T-lymphocytes and macrophages of the testis has been implicated in the development and progression of the disease. Thus, both proinflammatory cytokines, TNF alpha and IL-1, have significant roles in normal testicular functions as well as in certain testicular pathologies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mammals / metabolism*
  • Orchitis / metabolism*
  • Spermatic Cord Torsion / metabolism*
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / metabolism*
  • Testis / pathology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Interleukin-1
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha