Developmentally distinct in vivo effects of FSH on proliferation and apoptosis during testis maturation

J Endocrinol. 2005 Sep;186(3):429-46. doi: 10.1677/joe.1.06121.


The critical influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) on male fertility relates both to its impact on Sertoli cell proliferation in perinatal life and to its influence on the synthesis of Sertoli cell-derived products essential for germ cell survival and function in the developing adult testis. The nature and timing of this shift of germ cells to their reliance on specific Sertoli cell-derived products are not defined. Based on existing data, it is apparent that the dominant function of FSH shifts between 9 and 18 day postpartum (dpp) during the first wave of spermatogenesis from driving Sertoli cell proliferation to support germ cells. To enable comprehensive analysis of the impact of acute in vivo FSH suppression on Sertoli and germ cell development, FSH was selectively suppressed in Sprague-Dawley rats by passive immunisation for 2 days and/or 4 days prior to testis collection at 3, 9 and 18 dpp. The 3 dpp samples displayed no measurable changes, while 4 days of FSH suppression decreased Sertoli cell proliferation and numbers in 9 dpp, but not 18 dpp, animals. In contrast, germ cell numbers were unaffected at 9 dpp but decreased at 18 dpp following FSH suppression, with a corresponding increase in germ cell apoptosis measured at 18 dpp. Sixty transcripts were measured as changed at 18 dpp in response to 4 days of FSH suppression, as assessed using Affymetrix microarrays. Some of these are known as Sertoli cell-derived FSH-responsive genes (e.g. StAR, cathepsin L, insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3), while others encode proteins involved in cell cycle and survival regulation (e.g. cyclin D1, scavenger receptor class B 1). These data demonstrate that FSH differentially affects Sertoli and germ cells in an age-dependent manner in vivo, promoting Sertoli cell mitosis at day 9, and supporting germ cell viability at day 18. This model has enabled identification of candidate genes that contribute to the FSH-mediated pathway by which Sertoli cells support germ cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • DNA Primers
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / immunology
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / physiology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Immunization, Passive
  • Inhibins / blood
  • Male
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sertoli Cells / drug effects
  • Sertoli Cells / pathology
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testis / growth & development*
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Time Factors


  • DNA Primers
  • Testosterone
  • Inhibins
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone