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Concept: Testicle


Adverse temporal trends in human semen quality and cryptorchidism in infants have been associated with exposure to environmental chemicals (ECs) during development. Here we report that a population of breeding dogs exhibit a 26 year (1988-2014) decline in sperm quality and a concurrent increased incidence of cryptorchidism in male offspring (1995-2014). A decline in the number of males born relative to the number of females was also observed. ECs, including diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and polychlorinated bisphenol 153 (PCB153), were detected in adult dog testes and commercial dog foods at concentrations reported to perturb reproductive function in other species. Testicular concentrations of DEHP and PCB153 perturbed sperm viability, motility and DNA integrity in vitro but did not affect LH stimulated testosterone secretion from adult testis explants. The direct effects of chemicals on sperm may therefore contribute to the decline in canine semen quality that parallels that reported in the human.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Sperm, Sex, Testicle, Spermatozoon, Semen, Epididymis


The decline of circulating testosterone levels in aging men is associated with adverse health effects. During studies of probiotic bacteria and obesity, we discovered that male mice routinely consuming purified lactic acid bacteria originally isolated from human milk had larger testicles and increased serum testosterone levels compared to their age-matched controls. Further investigation using microscopy-assisted histomorphometry of testicular tissue showed that mice consuming Lactobacillus reuteri in their drinking water had significantly increased seminiferous tubule cross-sectional profiles and increased spermatogenesis and Leydig cell numbers per testis when compared with matched diet counterparts This showed that criteria of gonadal aging were reduced after routinely consuming a purified microbe such as L. reuteri. We tested whether these features typical of sustained reproductive fitness may be due to anti-inflammatory properties of L. reuteri, and found that testicular mass and other indicators typical of old age were similarly restored to youthful levels using systemic administration of antibodies blocking pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-17A. This indicated that uncontrolled host inflammatory responses contributed to the testicular atrophy phenotype in aged mice. Reduced circulating testosterone levels have been implicated in many adverse effects; dietary L. reuteri or other probiotic supplementation may provide a viable natural approach to prevention of male hypogonadism, absent the controversy and side-effects of traditional therapies, and yield practical options for management of disorders typically associated with normal aging. These novel findings suggest a potential high impact for microbe therapy in public health by imparting hormonal and gonad features of reproductive fitness typical of much younger healthy individuals.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Testicle, Reproductive system, Sertoli cell, Probiotic, Lactobacillus, Puberty


Environmental compounds are known to promote epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of adult onset disease in subsequent generations (F1-F3) following ancestral exposure during fetal gonadal sex determination. The current study was designed to determine if a mixture of plastic derived endocrine disruptor compounds bisphenol-A (BPA), bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) at two different doses promoted epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of adult onset disease and associated DNA methylation epimutations in sperm. Gestating F0 generation females were exposed to either the “plastics” or “lower dose plastics” mixture during embryonic days 8 to 14 of gonadal sex determination and the incidence of adult onset disease was evaluated in F1 and F3 generation rats. There were significant increases in the incidence of total disease/abnormalities in F1 and F3 generation male and female animals from plastics lineages. Pubertal abnormalities, testis disease, obesity, and ovarian disease (primary ovarian insufficiency and polycystic ovaries) were increased in the F3 generation animals. Kidney and prostate disease were only observed in the direct fetally exposed F1 generation plastic lineage animals. Analysis of the plastics lineage F3 generation sperm epigenome previously identified 197 differential DNA methylation regions (DMR) in gene promoters, termed epimutations. A number of these transgenerational DMR form a unique direct connection gene network and have previously been shown to correlate with the pathologies identified. Observations demonstrate that a mixture of plastic derived compounds, BPA and phthalates, can promote epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of adult onset disease. The sperm DMR provide potential epigenetic biomarkers for transgenerational disease and/or ancestral environmental exposures.

Concepts: DNA, Epigenetics, Sex, Testicle, Bisphenol A, Endocrine system, Ovary, Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate


Spermatogenesis is a complex process reliant upon interactions between germ cells (GC) and supporting somatic cells. Testicular Sertoli cells (SC) support GCs during maturation through physical attachment, the provision of nutrients, and protection from immunological attack. This role is facilitated by an active cytoskeleton of parallel microtubule arrays that permit transport of nutrients to GCs, as well as translocation of spermatids through the seminiferous epithelium during maturation. It is well established that chemical perturbation of SC microtubule remodelling leads to premature GC exfoliation demonstrating that microtubule remodelling is an essential component of male fertility, yet the genes responsible for this process remain unknown. Using a random ENU mutagenesis approach, we have identified a novel mouse line displaying male-specific infertility, due to a point mutation in the highly conserved ATPase domain of the novel KATANIN p60-related microtubule severing protein Katanin p60 subunit A-like1 (KATNAL1). We demonstrate that Katnal1 is expressed in testicular Sertoli cells (SC) from 15.5 days post-coitum (dpc) and that, consistent with chemical disruption models, loss of function of KATNAL1 leads to male-specific infertility through disruption of SC microtubule dynamics and premature exfoliation of spermatids from the seminiferous epithelium. The identification of KATNAL1 as an essential regulator of male fertility provides a significant novel entry point into advancing our understanding of how SC microtubule dynamics promotes male fertility. Such information will have resonance both for future treatment of male fertility and the development of non-hormonal male contraceptives.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Testicle, Spermatozoon, Sertoli cell, Spermatogenesis


Mouse sex determination provides an attractive model to study how regulatory genetic networks and signaling pathways control cell specification and cell fate decisions. This study characterizes in detail the essential role played by the insulin receptor (INSR) and the IGF type I receptor (IGF1R) in adrenogenital development and primary sex determination. Constitutive ablation of insulin/IGF signaling pathway led to reduced proliferation rate of somatic progenitor cells in both XX and XY gonads prior to sex determination together with the downregulation of hundreds of genes associated with the adrenal, testicular, and ovarian genetic programs. These findings indicate that prior to sex determination somatic progenitors in Insr;Igf1r mutant gonads are not lineage primed and thus incapable of upregulating/repressing the male and female genetic programs required for cell fate restriction. In consequence, embryos lacking functional insulin/IGF signaling exhibit (i) complete agenesis of the adrenal cortex, (ii) embryonic XY gonadal sex reversal, with a delay of Sry upregulation and the subsequent failure of the testicular genetic program, and (iii) a delay in ovarian differentiation so that Insr;Igf1r mutant gonads, irrespective of genetic sex, remained in an extended undifferentiated state, before the ovarian differentiation program ultimately is initiated at around E16.5.

Concepts: Gene, Signal transduction, Chromosome, Hormone, Testicle, Gamete, Endocrine system, Ovary


Elevated estradiol levels are correlated with male infertility. Causes of hyperestrogenism include diseases of the adrenal cortex, testis or medications affecting the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis. The aim of our study was to elucidate the effects of estradiol treatment on testicular cellular morphology and function, with reference to the treatment regimen received. Testes samples (n = 9) were obtained post-orchiectomy from male-to-female transsexuals within the age range of 26-52 years. Each patient had a minimum of 1-6 years estradiol treatment. For comparison, additional samples were obtained from microscopically unaltered testicular tissue surrounding tumors (n = 7). The tissues obtained were investigated by stereomicroscopy, histochemistry, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and immunohistochemistry. Our studies revealed that estradiol treatment significantly decreased the diameter of the seminiferous tubules (p < 0.05) and induced fatty degeneration in the surrounding connective tissue. An increase in collagen fiber synthesis in the extracellular matrix (ECM) surrounding the seminiferous tubules was also induced. Spermatogenesis was impaired resulting in mainly spermatogonia being present. Sertoli cells revealed diminished expression of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα). Both Sertoli and Leydig cells showed morphological alterations and glycoprotein accumulations. These results demonstrate that increased estradiol levels drastically impact the human testis.

Concepts: Testosterone, Testicle, Estradiol, Sertoli cell, Scanning electron microscope, Puberty, Male reproductive system, Leydig cell


Despite the well-documented benefits afforded the children of invested fathers in modern Western societies, some fathers choose not to invest in their children. Why do some men make this choice? Life History Theory offers an explanation for variation in parental investment by positing a trade-off between mating and parenting effort, which may explain some of the observed variance in human fathers' parenting behavior. We tested this hypothesis by measuring aspects of reproductive biology related to mating effort, as well as paternal nurturing behavior and the brain activity related to it. Both plasma testosterone levels and testes volume were independently inversely correlated with paternal caregiving. In response to viewing pictures of one’s own child, activity in the ventral tegmental area-a key component of the mesolimbic dopamine reward and motivation system-predicted paternal caregiving and was negatively related to testes volume. Our results suggest that the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between mating effort and parenting effort, as indexed by testicular size and nurturing-related brain function, respectively.

Concepts: Scientific method, Reproduction, Parent, Sex, Testicle, Reproductive system, Puberty, Scrotum


Ovarian insufficiency is a major long-term adverse event, following the administration of a myeloablative conditioning regimen, and occurring in >80% of children and adolescents receiving such treatment for malignant or non-malignant disease. Cryopreservation of ovarian tissue is currently offered to preserve the fertility of these young patients. At least 35 live births have been reported after transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue in adult patients, but the procedure remains unproven for ovarian tissue harvested at a prepubertal or pubertal age. We report here the first live birth after autograft of cryopreserved ovarian tissue in a woman with primary ovarian failure after a myeloablative conditioning regimen as part of a hematopoietic stem cell transplantation performed for homozygous sickle-cell anemia at age 14 years. This first report of successful fertility restoration after the graft of ovarian tissue cryopreserved before menarche offers reassuring evidence for the feasibility of the procedure when performed during childhood.

Concepts: Demography, Menopause, Testicle, Fertility, Abortion, Adolescence, Puberty, Stillbirth


Temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) was described nearly 50 years ago. Researchers have since identified many genes that display differential expression at male- versus female-producing temperatures. Yet, it is unclear whether these genes are 1) involved in sex determination per se, 2) downstream effectors involved in differentiation of ovaries and testes, or 3) thermo-sensitive but unrelated to gonad development. Here we present multiple lines of evidence linking CIRBP to sex determination in the snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentine. We demonstrate significant associations between a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) (c63A>C) in CIRBP, transcript levels in embryonic gonads during specification of gonad fate, and sex in hatchlings from a thermal regime that produces mixed sex ratios. The A allele was induced in embryos exposed to a female-producing temperature, while expression of the C allele did not differ between female- and male-producing temperatures. In accord with this pattern of temperature-dependent, allele-specific expression, AA homozygotes were more likely to develop ovaries than AC heterozygotes, which, in turn, were more likely to develop ovaries than CC homozygotes. Multiple regression using SNPs in CIRBP and adjacent loci suggests that c63A>C may be the causal variant or closely linked to it. Differences in CIRBP allele frequencies among turtles from northern Minnesota, southern Minnesota, and Texas reflect small and large-scale latitudinal differences in TSD pattern. Finally, analysis of CIRBP protein localization reveals that CIRBP is in a position to mediate temperature effects on the developing gonads. Together, these studies strongly suggest that CIRBP is involved in determining the fate of the bipotential gonad.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, SNP array, Testicle, Turtle, Ovary, Common Snapping Turtle


A walnut supplement for a Western-style diet in men was shown to improve sperm motility, vitality, and morphology. To gain further insights into factors underlying this improvement, we administered a parallel walnut-enriched diet to mice [including those with a defect in sperm motility due to deletion of Plasma Membrane Ca(2+)-ATPase 4 (Pmca4(-/-) )] to determine if there is a similar improvement that is accompanied by reduced sperm membrane peroxidative damage. Although sperm vitality and acrosome reaction rate were unaffected, the diet led to a significant improvement in motility (P < 0.05) and morphology (P < 0.04) in wild-type sperm and in morphology (P < 0.01) in Pmca4(-/-) , confirming the diet's efficacy, which appeared to be more modest in mice than in humans. In both strains of mice, the diet resulted in a significant decrease in sperm lipid peroxidation (oxidative stress) levels, but did not rescue the significantly increased apoptotic levels seen in the testis and epididymis of Pmca4 nulls. Our findings support the effectiveness of walnuts on sperm quality, associated with reduced peroxidative damage; and suggest that oxidative stress is involved in the mechanism(s) underlying male reproductive defects in Pmca4(-/-) .

Concepts: Human, Reproduction, Antioxidant, Sperm, Andrology, Testicle, Reproductive system, Semen