Characterization of plasma inhibin forms in fertile and infertile men

David M. Robertson, T. Stephenson, R. I. McLachlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The reciprocal relationship between plasma FSH and inhibin B generally reflects the state of spermatogenesis but data in some settings indicate further complexity in their relationship. Inhibin circulates as a range of higher molecular weight (mol wt) forms of varying bioactivity such that the serum profile of inhibin forms may differ between normal men and those with varying types of spermatogenic failure. The aim of this study was to establish if the inhibin B mol wt distribution was altered in men with infertility. Methods: The mol wt profiles of inhibin B and free a-subunit were determined in plasma of fertile (n = 11) and infertile (n = 17) men using a combined immunoaffinity chromatography, preparative SDS-PAGE and electro-elution procedure and fractions assayed using ELISAs for inhibin B, total inhibin (all forms containing the α-subunit) and free α-subunit. Results: Inhibin B was identified as precursor (60-65 k) and mature (26-30 k) forms in plasma in similar proportions (29%) in fertile men and oligospermic men (25%), but was undetectable in azoospermic men. The free α-subunit detected by the pro-αC ELISA was identified as both the precursor and processed (pro-αC) forms with similar proportions in fertile (8%) and all infertile (4-14%) men. The pro-αC ELISA did not detect the precursor forms of inhibin B in plasma while the inhibin B ELISA detected all total inhibin forms following removal of procontaining forms by immunoabsorption. Conclusions: (i) the proportions of precursor inhibin B and α-subunit forms in the circulation are unchanged in men with spermatogenic disorders indicating there is no alteration of the Sertoli cell inhibin secretory pattern; (ii) these fractionation studies indicate that pro-αC and inhibin B ELISAs specifically detect the free α-subunit and inhibin B forms present in male plasma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1054
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Inhibi α-subunit/inhibin B/pro-αC/spermatogenic failure/total inhibitin ELISA

Cite this