Sertoli Cells Modulate Testicular Vascular Network Development, Structure, and Function to Influence Circulating Testosterone Concentrations in Adult Male Mice

Endocrinology. 2016 Jun;157(6):2479-88. doi: 10.1210/en.2016-1156. Epub 2016 May 4.


The testicular vasculature forms a complex network, providing oxygenation, micronutrients, and waste clearance from the testis. The vasculature is also instrumental to testis function because it is both the route by which gonadotropins are delivered to the testis and by which T is transported away to target organs. Whether Sertoli cells play a role in regulating the testicular vasculature in postnatal life has never been unequivocally demonstrated. In this study we used models of acute Sertoli cell ablation and acute germ cell ablation to address whether Sertoli cells actively influence vascular structure and function in the adult testis. Our findings suggest that Sertoli cells play a key role in supporting the structure of the testicular vasculature. Ablating Sertoli cells (and germ cells) or germ cells alone results in a similar reduction in testis size, yet only the specific loss of Sertoli cells leads to a reduction in total intratesticular vascular volume, the number of vascular branches, and the numbers of small microvessels; loss of germ cells alone has no effect on the testicular vasculature. These perturbations to the testicular vasculature leads to a reduction in fluid exchange between the vasculature and testicular interstitium, which reduces gonadotropin-stimulated circulating T concentrations, indicative of reduced Leydig cell stimulation and/or reduced secretion of T into the vasculature. These findings describe a new paradigm by which the transport of hormones and other factors into and out of the testis may be influenced by Sertoli cells and highlights these cells as potential targets for enhancing this endocrine relationship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Germ Cells / cytology
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Gonadotropins / pharmacology
  • Leydig Cells / drug effects
  • Leydig Cells / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microvessels / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sertoli Cells / drug effects
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism*
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects
  • Spermatogenesis / physiology
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testis / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Testosterone / metabolism*


  • Gonadotropins
  • Testosterone