Role of non-classical effects of testosterone and epitestosterone on AMH balance and testicular development parameters

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2020 Jul 1;511:110850. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2020.110850. Epub 2020 May 5.


Testosterone (T) and its 17-α epimer, epitestosterone (EpiT), are described as having non-classical effects in addition to their classical androgen actions via the intracellular androgen receptor (iAR). The actions of these androgens play an essential role in triggering factors that shift Sertoli cells from the proliferation phase to the maturation phase. This process is essential for successful spermatogenesis and normal fertility. The aim of this work was to investigate the difference between T and EpiT effects in normal and in chemically castrated Wistar rats. We also tested the effects of these hormones when the iAR-dependent pathways were inhibited by the antiandrogen flutamide. Rats were chemically castrated on postnatal day (pnd) 5 using EDS, a cytotoxic agent that promotes apoptosis of Leydig cells, reducing androgen levels. Then, animals received replacement with T or EpiT and were treated or not with flutamide from pnd 6 to pnd 13 or 20 and were euthanized on pnd 14 and 21. Animals treated with EpiT and flutamide had lower body weight overall. Epididymis weight was also reduced in animals treated with EpiT and flutamide. Flutamide per se reduced epididymis weight at both ages (pnd 14 and 21). Testicular weight and the testicular/body weight ratio were reduced in EDS animals, and flutamide further reduced this weight in animals which received T replacement. EDS administration reduced mRNA levels of both AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone) and its receptor, AMHR2, at pnd 14. In the testes of flutamide-treated animals, EpiT reduced AMH, and both T and EpiT replacement diminished AMHR2 mRNA expression also on pnd 14. EDS decreased iAR expression, and androgen replacement did not change this effect on pnd 21. In rats receiving flutamide, only those also receiving T and EpiT replacement exhibited decreased iAR expression. An increase in connexin 43 expression was observed in animals treated with EpiT without flutamide, whereas in rats treated with flutamide, both hormones were ineffective to increase connexin 43 expression reduced by EDS. Our results suggest that EpiT has an antiandrogen effect on androgen-sensitive tissues such as the epididymis. Nonetheless, the effects of T and EpiT on testicular development parameters are similar. Both hormones may act through their iAR-independent non-classical pathway, regulating AMH and AMHR2, as well as iAR expression.

Keywords: Androgens; Blood-testis barrier; Connexin 43; EDS; Flutamide; Leydig cell; Sertoli cell; Testis development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone / genetics
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone / metabolism*
  • Blood-Testis Barrier / drug effects
  • Blood-Testis Barrier / metabolism
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism
  • Epitestosterone / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Organ Specificity / drug effects
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testis / growth & development*
  • Testis / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*


  • Androgens
  • Connexin 43
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Testosterone
  • Epitestosterone
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone