Leptin (Lep) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) are implicated in the regulation of testicular function, but in dogs, our knowledge is limited to the possible role of the IGF1 system in testicular tumours. In this study, we aimed to describe and compare gene expression and protein localization of Lep, IGF1 and their receptors (LepR and IGF1R, respectively) in the testis of healthy adult and prepubertal dogs. Testes were collected from sexually healthy mature (n = 7) and from 8-week-old dogs (n = 7). Relative gene expression of Lep, LepR, IGF1 and IGF1R was determined by semi-quantitative real-time (TaqMan) PCR and cellular distribution in the testis by immunohistochemistry. Statistical analysis was carried out with Student's t test. Lep and LepR mRNA concentration was similar between the two groups, but IGF1 and IGF1R gene expression was significantly higher in the 8-week-old pups. Protein localization and the intensity of signals differed by age. In adults, Lep and LepR immunoreactivity was detected in spermatocytes and spermatids. Leydig cells showed sporadic, weak Lep staining. In prepubertal animals, intense Lep signals were present in Leydig and Sertoli cells, and LepR was found in Leydig cells. IGF1 and IGF1R protein was expressed in spermatogonia of the mature testis; IGF1 signals in Leydig cells seemed stronger than IGF1R. In the pups, IGF1 and IGF1R staining was detected in Leydig cells and in gonocytes. Sertoli cells showed weak IGF1 and sporadic, weak IGF1R signals. In conclusion, Lep and IGF1 may support spermatogenesis in adult dogs and mediate Leydig cell function. In the immature testis, they may promote development of Sertoli and Leydig cells and gonocytes.
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