Macrophages are a common cell type in the testicular interstitium of the rat and are morphologically and functionally related to Leydig cells. We investigated the number of macrophages and Leydig cells in long-term (24 weeks) hypophysectomized (LTHX) or sham-operated rats. LTHX rats showed a 76% decrease in the number of macrophages, whereas the number of Leydig cells was only slightly decreased (by 18%). The profile areas of both macrophages and Leydig cells were very much decreased (46% and 66% respectively).
Sham-operated and LTHX rats were treated with vehicle or human FSH and LH (hFSH/hLH; 75 IU/kg body weight per day) for 1 week. This treatment induced a 286% increase in the number of macrophages and a 32% increase in the number of Leydig cells in LTHX rats. The profile areas of macrophages and Leydig cells were also increased (212% and 184% respectively). About 80% of macrophages showed vacuolization of the cytoplasm. Gonadotrophin treatment did not induce changes in cell numbers in sham-operated animals but about 30% of macrophages showed large cytoplasmic vacuoles.
Vehicle- or hormone-treated LTHX rats were given a single injection of ethylene dimethane sulphonate (EDS) and killed 72 h later. Leydig cells were absent from the testicular interstitium of sham-operated rats but there were large numbers of dead Leydig cells (about 40% of the pre-existing population) in the testicular interstitium of LTHX rats 3 days after EDS treatment. Complete clearance of the testicular interstitium from EDS-killed Leydig cells was found in LTHX rats treated with hFSH/hLH. These results indicate that the decreased number and size and the defective function of testicular macrophages in LTHX rats can be restored by treatment with gonadotrophins.