The long-term effects of oxytocin administration on the testis were studied using intratesticular implants. Adult male rats had an Accurel device containing 20 μg oxytocin (releasing approximately 200 ng/day) implanted into the parenchyma of each testis; control animals received empty devices. The animals were killed at weekly intervals for 4 weeks. Some animals were perfused and the testes processed for light and electron microscopy. Blood was collected from the remaining animals for the measurement of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, LH, FSH and oxytocin; epididymal sperm counts were measured and the testes were extracted and radioimmunoassayed for testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and oxytocin.
Long-term administration of oxytocin resulted in a significant reduction in testicular and plasma testosterone levels throughout the 4-week period examined and, after 14 days of treatment, lipid droplets were seen in the Leydig cells of treated but not control animals. Concentrations of dihydrotestosterone in the plasma and testes of the oxytocin-treated animals, however, were significantly elevated after 7 and 14 days and at no time fell below control values. Plasma FSH levels were also lower in the oxytocin-treated animals. Intratesticular oxytocin treatment did not affect LH or oxytocin concentrations in the plasma, epididymal sperm counts or the number of Leydig cells in the testis. Empty Accurel devices had no effect on testicular morphology.
This study provides the first evidence that oxytocin in vivo can modify steroidogenesis in the testis.