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Asian J Androl. 2011 Mar;13(2):287-91. doi: 10.1038/aja.2010.111. Epub 2010 Nov 15.

Effects of varicocele on testosterone, apoptosis and expression of StAR mRNA in rat Leydig cells.

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  • 1Department of Urology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610041, China.


The aim of this study was to explore the effects of varicocele on the morphology and function of Leydig cells in the rat testis. Forty male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into two groups: the experimental group underwent surgery to create a left varicocele (VC), and the control group underwent a sham operation. Serum testosterone and intratesticular testosterone levels were measured using a radioimmunoassay after 4 and 8 weeks of operation. Leydig cells were studied for apoptosis and expression of steroidogenetic acute regulatory (StAR) protein mRNA levels. Serum testosterone levels declined after 4 and 8 weeks of operation but were not significant (P>0.05). However, the intratesticular testosterone levels after 8 weeks were significantly decreased compared with the control group (P<0.01). The mean apoptosis index of Leydig cells in the experimental group was significantly higher than that in the control group after 4 or 8 weeks (P<0.01). StAR mRNA levels in the Leydig cells of the experimental group were significantly lower compared to those of the control group (P<0.01). Our data show that varicocele did impair Leydig cell function by increasing apoptosis and suppressing the expression of the StAR protein.

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