Objectives: To determine the effects of long-term cigarette smoking on the levels of plasma testosterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in male adult rats and to examine morphological and histological changes in the testes.
Materials and methods: Cigarette smoke was generated by a smoking-machine and 12 rats were exposed to cigarette smoke diluted with 90% air for 60 days (2 h/day). Twelve rats were exposed to room air only under similar conditions as controls. The concentrations of plasma testosterone, LH and FSH were measured before and after exposure using a radio-immunoassay and the testes were examined histologically.
Results: In rats exposed to smoke, the mean plasma testosterone level decreased significantly but there were no significant changes in testosterone in the control rats. The mean plasma LH and FSH levels of the two groups did not change significantly after exposure. In rats exposed to smoke, histological examination of the testes showed fewer Leydig cells and degeneration of the remaining cells.
Conclusion: These results indicate that the decrease in plasma testosterone levels induced by exposure to smoke was not associated with changes in plasma gonadotrophin levels. The decrease in testosterone levels may be related to the toxic effects of smoke on Leydig cells.