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Int J Androl. 1999 Oct;22(5):336-41.

Biphasic effect of nitric oxide on testosterone and cyclic GMP production by purified rat Leydig cells cultured in vitro.

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Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University School of Medicine of Genoa, Italy.


Nitric oxide (NO) biphasically modulates osteoclast function and sperm motility by exerting a positive effect at low concentrations and a negative effect at high concentrations. We therefore tested whether NO exerts a comparable effect on testosterone secretion by cultured rat Leydig cells. Three NO-donors, S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP), diethylamine/nitric oxide complex sodium salt (DEA/NO) and diethylenetriamine nitric oxide adduct (DETA/NO) were administered in a wide range of concentrations (10(-8)-10(-3) M for 3 h) to Percoll-purified Leydig cells from adult rats. These drugs raised testosterone and cGMP secretion when used at low concentrations (10(-8)-10(-5) M); however, they inhibited testosterone, but did not affect cGMP, secretion at concentrations higher than 10(-5) M. Administration of the NO scavenger haemoglobin (160 micrograms/mL) prevented both the stimulatory and the inhibitory effect of these drugs. Nitrite accumulation was measured as a marker of NO released by the drugs in our in vitro system; it fell within the range of control media in the presence of NO-donor concentrations lower than 10(-5) M, but was several-fold higher in the media of cells treated with concentrations of the NO-donors greater than 10(-5) M. These data show that (1) NO exerts a biphasic effect on testosterone secretion, which is stimulatory at low and inhibitory at high concentrations; (2) the stimulatory effect of NO is mediated by cGMP, the classic second messenger for NO action.

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