Oxytocin--its role in male reproduction and new potential therapeutic uses

Hum Reprod Update. Jul-Aug 2006;12(4):437-48. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmk002. Epub 2006 Jan 25.

Abstract

Oxytocin (OT) is traditionally thought of as a "female" neurohypophysis hormone due to its role in parturition and milk ejection. However, OT is recognized as having endocrine and paracrine roles in male reproduction. At ejaculation, a burst of OT is released from the neurohypophysis into the systemic circulation and stimulates contractions of the reproductive tract aiding sperm release. There is conclusive evidence that OT is synthesized within the mammalian testis, epididymis and prostate and the presence of OT receptors (OTRs) through the reproductive tract supports a local action for this peptide. OT has a paracrine role in stimulating contractility of the seminiferous tubules, epididymis and the prostate gland. Interestingly, OT has also been shown to modulate androgen levels in these tissues via stimulation of the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestostone (DHT) by 5alpha-reductase. The elucidation of OT's role in male reproduction has suggested a number of potential therapeutic uses for this hormone. Exogenous administration of OT has, in some cases, been shown to increase the numbers of ejaculated sperm, possibly by stimulating contractions of the reproductive tract and thus aiding sperm passage. Within the prostate, OT has been shown to affect gland growth both directly and via its interaction with androgen metabolism. Prostate pathologies due to unregulated cell proliferation/growth, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia and cancer, are unfortunately very common and few effective treatments are available. Greater understanding of paracrine growth mediators, such as OT, is likely to provide new mechanisms for treating such pathologies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Genitalia, Male / cytology
  • Genitalia, Male / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Oxytocin / pharmacology
  • Oxytocin / physiology*
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / drug therapy
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Steroids / metabolism

Substances

  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Steroids
  • Oxytocin