Arachidonic acid (AA) seems to play an important role in testicular steroidogenesis, although controversial data exist in the literature. In the present study AA induced a dose related increase of testosterone (T) formation and, at the highest dose, stimulated the production of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), leukotrienes B4 (LTB4) and C4 (LTC4) by purified rat Leydig cells. The contemporary addition of the prostaglandin synthesis blocker, indomethacin (IND), and AA further increased T formation, decreased PGE2 levels and did not modify LTB4 and LTC4 concentrations. The addition of a lipoxygenase inhibitor, nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA, 5 microM), did not influence the stimulatory effect of AA on T and PGE2 formation while it decreased the output of LTB4 and LTC4. When 20 microM NDGA was used in addition to AA the expected reduction of leukotrienes release was observed together with a surprising impairment of T and PGE2 secretion. PGE2 and PGF2 alpha did not modify basal T production but reduced HCG-stimulated T secretion at the 10 nM dose. When 5-12- and 15-HETE were tested an enhancement of basal T formation was observed at the 10nM dose. 5-HETE (10nM) stimulated HCG-induced T production. LTA4, LTB4 and LTE4 did not influence basal T output while LTC4 and LTD4 inhibited it. LTC4 (10nM) induced a decrease of HCG-stimulated T production. These findings suggest that: 1) exogenous AA stimulates T secretion; 2) conversion of AA to cycloxygenated and lipoxygenated metabolites is not required for its steroidogenic effect; 3) cycloxygenated and lipoxygenated compounds play a diverse modulatory role on testicular steroidogenesis.