Mature Merino rams were made hypothyroid by daily oral drenching with methylthiouracil or hyperthyroid by daily subcutaneous injections of thyroxine for 8 weeks. Neither hypothyroidism nor hyperthyroidism had any apparent effect on either spermatogenesis or daily sperm production, but motility of ejaculated spermatozoa and circulating testosterone concentrations were reduced in both conditions. The ratio of testosterone concentrations in plasma from the internal spermatic vein to those in peripheral blood plasma was higher in hyperthyroid (21·2 ± 3·5) than in control (11·1 ±4·4 and hypothyroid (7·6±1·4) rams. The basal secretion rate for testosterone was slightly lower in hypothyroid rams and testosterone responses to human chorionic gonadotrophin and after LH-releasing hormone (LHRH) were very much reduced. Basal serum LH levels were low in both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid rams compared with controls whereas there were no differences in FSH levels. The LH response to exogenous LHRH was reduced in hypothyroid rams but not in hyperthyroid rams. Serum prolactin levels on the other hand were higher than control in both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid rams.
Reduced testosterone secretion in hypothyroid rams indicates that the normal function of Leydig cells depends on an adequate level of thyroid hormones. The decrease in circulating testosterone concentrations in hyperthyroid rams with normal secretion rates suggests an increased testosterone clearance rate in these animals. The decreased spermatozoal motility in hypo- and hyperthyroid rams suggests that the lowered testosterone level in these animals has altered the androgen-dependent maturation of spermatozoa in the epididymis. Changes in testis function together with decreased LH secretion in hypothyroid rams indicate that thyroid hormones can act at both the pituitary gland and testes to influence reproductive function in mature rams.
J. Endocr. (1985) 105, 39–46