Physiological relationships between inhibin B, follicle stimulating hormone secretion and spermatogenesis in normal men and response to gonadotrophin suppression by exogenous testosterone

Hum Reprod. 1997 Apr;12(4):746-51. doi: 10.1093/humrep/12.4.746.


Inhibin has been postulated to be secreted by Sertoli cells in response to follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and in turn to exert an inhibitory effect on FSH production. We have investigated this relationship using an assay specific for dimeric inhibin B. A total of 56 normal men received 200 mg testosterone enanthate (TE) i.m. weekly, for 65 +/- 1 weeks in a trial of hormonal male contraception. Before treatment a significant negative correlation between inhibin B and FSH concentration (r = 0.49, P < 0.001) was observed. During TE treatment, luteinizing hormone (LH) and FSH were rapidly suppressed. This was followed by a parallel decline in inhibin B and sperm concentration. During the early recovery phase, inhibin B concentrations remained suppressed in men who showed a delay in resumption of spermatogenesis, despite higher FSH concentrations. Inhibin B returned to pretreatment concentrations after 24 weeks recovery, when the inverse relationship with FSH was restored. Our results showed the expected inverse physiological relationship between inhibin B and FSH in normal men, with a decline during TE treatment and alpha subsequent resumption of the inverse relationship during recovery. These data clearly support the hypothesis that inhibin B plays a physiological role in the feedback control of FSH secretion, and reflects FSH-stimulated Sertoli cell function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Contraceptive Agents, Male / therapeutic use*
  • Depression, Chemical
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / metabolism*
  • Gonadotropins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inhibins / physiology*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Secretory Rate / drug effects
  • Sperm Count / drug effects
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects*
  • Testosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use


  • Contraceptive Agents, Male
  • Gonadotropins
  • Testosterone
  • Inhibins
  • testosterone enanthate
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone