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Int J Androl. 2010 Aug 1;33(4):650-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2009.01002.x. Epub 2009 Nov 3.

P450-aromatase activity and expression in human testicular tissues with severe spermatogenic failure.

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Institute of Maternal and Child Research, School of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago.


There is evidence that impaired spermatogenesis is associated with an imbalance in the oestradiol/testosterone ratio and with Leydig cell (LC) dysfunction. In testis, P450-aromatase, encoded by CYP19, is responsible for the conversion of testosterone to oestradiol. The aims of this study were to quantify CYP19 mRNA expression, aromatase activity and protein localization, and to measure the oestradiol to testosterone ratio in testicular tissues of men with spermatogenic impairment. Twenty-four men with complete Sertoli cell-only syndrome (SCOS), 14 with focal SCOS, 14 with maturation arrest (MA), 8 with mixed atrophy and 30 controls with normal spermatogenesis were subjected to testicular biopsy. All subjects underwent a physical examination, cytogenetic and serum hormonal studies. Testicular CYP19 mRNA was quantified using real time RT-PCR. Testicular aromatase activity was measured using the (3)H(2)0 assay and protein expression was evaluated using immunohistochemistry. In cases, serum testosterone and oestradiol were normal, but the testosterone/LH ratio was lower compared with controls (p < 0.05). Aromatase was localized in the Leydig, Sertoli and germ cells of all tissues, although stronger intensity was observed in LC. Aromatase mRNA and activity were not altered in cases and correlated positively with LC number (r = 0.516 and r = 0.369; p < 0.008). The intratesticular oestradiol/testosterone ratio was elevated (p = 0.005) in complete SCOS patients compared with controls. In conclusion, testicular aromatase seems to be normal in most subjects with impaired spermatogenesis. However, an altered intratesticular oestradiol/testosterone ratio in some patients with complete SCOS suggests that aromatase is increased, which might contribute to Leydig cell dysfunction.

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