Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), described originally as a product of activated T lymphocytes, recently has been found to be released by monocytes/macrophages and the anterior pituitary gland. Immunohistochemical studies of the adult rat testis using an affinity-purified polyclonal antimurine MIF antibody demonstrated strong staining for MIF in Leydig cells and their putative precursors. Peritubular myoid cells and the seminiferous epithelium were negative for MIF staining; however, a weak reaction around the heads of elongated spermatids also was observed. The expression of MIF messenger RNA and protein in whole rat testis was demonstrated by Northern blot and Western blot analyses, respectively. Both MIF messenger RNA and protein immunoreactivity in Leydig cells was observed in testes obtained from long term hypophysectomized rats. Significant concentrations of intracellular MIF were detected in lysates of the TM3 Leydig cell line (7.23 ± 2.6 pg/μg protein), and testicular interstitial fluid contained 14.7 ± 1.6 ng/ml MIF protein, as measured by MIF-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. To gain insight into the possible biological role of MIF in the testis, cultures of adult rat seminiferous tubules and purified Leydig cells were incubated together with recombinant murine MIF (rMIF). Neither rMIF (50 ng/ml) nor a neutralizing anti-MIF antiserum was found to affect basal or LH-stimulated Leydig cell steroidogenesis in vitro. However, a dose-dependent decrease in the secretion of inhibin by the seminiferous tubules was observed at rMIF concentrations ranging from 10-100 ng/ml. Taken together, these data indicate that Leydig cells produce MIF in vivo and suggest an important regulatory role for this newly discovered mediator of testicular function.