Retinoic acid is able to reinitiate spermatogenesis in vitamin A-deficient rats and high replicate doses support the full development of spermatogenic cells

Endocrinology. 1991 Feb;128(2):697-704. doi: 10.1210/endo-128-2-697.


The effect of various doses of retinoic acid (RA) on the seminiferous epithelium in vitamin A-deficient rats has been studied. Although it was generally thought that RA was not able to reinitiate spermatogenesis in vitamin A-deficient rats, one injection of 5 mg RA strongly stimulated the proliferative activity of A-spermatogonia within 24 h, as evidenced by a 7-fold increase in the number of bromodeoxyuridine-labeled A-spermatogonia. Ten days after RA administration, B-spermatogonia or preleptotene spermatocytes were seen in most of the seminiferous tubules. After 15 days, zygotene spermatocytes were present. Hence, RA is able to induce a massive and synchronized development of A-spermatogonia into spermatocytes. When RA was given once, combined with a RA-containing diet, only few of the zygotene spermatocytes present on day 15 were able to develop into pachytene spermatocytes, which did not develop into spermatids. In subsequent epithelial cycles new B-spermatogonia and spermatocytes were formed, although in lower numbers than during the first cycle after RA injection. When RA was given once a week, the formation of B-spermatogonia and preleptotene spermatocytes continued at a higher level. Also, more pachytene spermatocytes were formed, some of which were able to develop into spermatids. Finally, when RA was injected twice a week, even more pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids were found after 36 days, and after 49 days elongated spermatids were found in all animals. It is concluded that RA, similar to retinol, is able to induce synchronous proliferation and differentiation of A-spermatogonia. When repeated injections are given, RA is able to support the full development of spermatogenic cells into elongated spermatids.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Survival
  • Diet
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Injections
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Seminiferous Tubules / cytology
  • Seminiferous Tubules / drug effects*
  • Sertoli Cells / cytology
  • Spermatocytes / cytology
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects*
  • Spermatogonia / cytology
  • Tretinoin / administration & dosage
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / physiopathology*


  • Tretinoin