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Cell Tissue Res. 2008 Nov;334(2):283-94. doi: 10.1007/s00441-008-0680-y. Epub 2008 Sep 16.

Expression of thyrotropin-releasing hormone receptors in rat testis and their role in isolated Leydig cells.

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  • 1Department of Histology and Embryology, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, 710032, People's Republic of China.


Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) was initially discovered as a neuropeptide synthesized in the hypothalamus. Receptors for this hormone include TRH-receptor-1 (TRH-R1) and -2 (TRH-R2). Previous studies have shown that TRH-R1 and TRH-R2 are localized exclusively in adult Leydig cells (ALCs). We have investigated TRH-R1 and TRH-R2 expression in the testes of postnatal 8-, 14-, 21- 35-, 60-, and 90-day-old rats and in ethane dimethane sulfonate (EDS)-treated adult rats by using Western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence. The effects of TRH on testosterone secretion of primary cultured ALCs from 90-day-old rats and DNA synthesis in Leydig cells from 21-day-old rats have also been examined. Western blotting and immunohistochemistry demonstrated that TRH-R1 and TRH-R2 were expressed in fetal Leydig cells (in 8-day-old rats) and in all stages of adult-type Leydig cells during development. Immunofluorescence double-staining revealed that newly regenerated Leydig cells in post-EDS 21-day rats expressed TRH-R1 and TRH-R2 on their first reappearance. Incubation with various doses of TRH affected testosterone secretion of primary cultured ALCs. Low concentrations of TRH (0.001, 0.01, and 0.1 ng/ml) inhibited basal and human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG)-stimulated testosterone secretion of isolated ALCs, whereas relatively high doses of TRH (1 and 10 ng/ml) increased hCG-stimulated testosterone secretion. As detected by a 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine incorporation test, the DNA synthesis of Leydig cells from 21-day-old rats was promoted by low TRH concentrations. Thus, we have clarified the effect of TRH on testicular function: TRH might regulate the development of Leydig cells before maturation and the secretion of testosterone after maturation.

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