Heat reversibly disrupts spermatogenesis, but the effects on Sertoli cell (SC) function and inhibin/activin-related proteins are less well-defined. Adult rat testis weights decreased by 40% within 2 weeks after heat-treatment (43 °C, 15 min), due to loss of pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids. Coincident effects were reduced SC nuclear volume at one week and >50% reduction in expression of several critical SC genes (Inha, Cld11, Gja1, Tjp1, Cldn3) by 2 weeks. Leydig cell steroidogenic enzymes, Cyp11a1, Hsd3b1, were also reduced. Activin gene expression was unaffected at this time, but expression of the activin-binding protein, follistatin (Fst), increased >2-fold. At 4–8 weeks, coincident with the recovery of spermatocytes and early spermatids, but progressive loss of elongated spermatids, most SC genes had recovered; however, testicular activin A was reduced and activin B increased. At 8 weeks, serum inhibin was decreased and, consequently, serum FSH increased. Crucially, germ cell damage was not associated with a significant inflammatory response. At 14 weeks, most testicular parameters had returned to normal, but testis weights remained slightly reduced. These data indicate that, following acute heat-treatment, expression of several key Sertoli and Leydig cell genes declined in parallel with the initial loss of meiotic germ cells, whereas activins were responsive to the subsequent loss of mature spermatids, leading to an increase in testicular activin B production relative to activin A.
- Heat stress
- Sertoli cell