Metabolic regulation is important for spermatogenesis

Nat Rev Urol. 2012 May 1;9(6):330-8. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2012.77.


Male factor infertility is increasing in developed countries, and several factors linked to lifestyle have been shown to negatively affect spermatogenesis. Sertoli cells are pivotal to spermatogenesis, providing nutritional support to germ cells throughout their development. Sertoli cells display atypical features in their cellular metabolism; they can metabolize various substrates, preferentially glucose, the majority of which is converted to lactate and not oxidized via the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Why Sertoli cells preferentially export lactate for germ cells is not entirely understood. However, lactate is utilized as the main energy substrate by developing germ cells and has an antiapoptotic effect on these cells. Several biochemical mechanisms contribute to the modulation of lactate secretion by Sertoli cells. These include the transport of glucose through the plasma membrane, mediated by glucose transporters; the interconversion of pyruvate to lactate by lactate dehydrogenase; and the release of lactate mediated by monocarboxylate transporters. Several factors that modulate Sertoli cell metabolism have been identified, including sex steroid hormones, which are crucial for maintenance of energy homeostasis, influencing the metabolic balance of the whole body. In fact, energy status is essential for normal reproductive function, since the reproductive axis has the capacity to respond to metabolic cues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / epidemiology
  • Infertility, Male / metabolism
  • Male
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism
  • Spermatogenesis / physiology*