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J Anim Sci. 2003 Feb;81(2):503-11.

Relationships of testicular iron and ferritin concentrations with testicular weight and sperm production in boars.

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Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, USDA, ARS, Clay Center, NE 68933-0166, USA.


The inverse relationship of testicular size and circulating follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) concentrations has been documented, and accompanying this relationship is the change in color of the parenchymal tissue of the testes. Large testes (300 to 400 g) are pink to light red and small testes (100 g) are dark maroon with color gradations for weights in between. It was hypothesized that this color most likely represented an iron protein. Chromatographic analysis of testicular tissue indicated that the Fe was associated primarily with ferritin, and immunohistochemistry showed that Leydig cells were the primary location of ferritin storage within the testes. Concentrations of Fe and ferritin were higher in small testes and decreased as testes weight increased (P < 0.05). As testicular Fe concentrations increased, daily sperm production (DSP) and total DSP declined (P < 0.05). Genotyping six generations of Meishan x White composite boars (n = 288) for a quantitative trait locus that is indicative of elevated FSH and small testes in boars indicated that the Meishan genotype had elevated testicular iron concentrations and darker color in conjunction with reduced total DSP (P < 0.01). It is not thought the elevated iron concentrations affect testicular weights but are probably a result of elevated FSH and FSH inducement of Fe transport. The storage of Fe in Leydig cells may provide a reservoir of Fe for easy access by Sertoli and germ cells, but still provide a degree of protection to germ cells from ionic iron.

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