The aim of the present study was to determine whether LH stimulates oxytocin production by adult rat Leydig cells directly or indirectly via testosterone. Purified adult rat Leydig cells were cultured in the presence or absence of 0·1 ng/ml LH or 1, 10 or 100 ng/ml testosterone for 22 h. Culture medium was collected at 2-hourly intervals and assayed for oxytocin and testosterone. In the presence of LH, Leydig cells produced significantly higher levels of both testosterone (basal production 1·4± 0·13 ng, LH-stimulated 4·1 ±0·13 ng/106 cells per 2 h) and oxytocin (basal production 8·3± 1·2 pg, LH-stimulated 20·2± 1·3 pg/106 cells per 2 h). Testosterone also stimulated oxytocin secretion. However, the increase was smaller compared with that seen with LH and was not found to be dose-dependent. Furthermore, testosterone production was only significantly increased by LH during the first 10 h of the 22-h culture period whereas LH stimulated oxytocin production throughout the whole culture period.
To further determine the effect of LH on oxytocin production, cultures were performed in the presence of LH and/or 400 μm aminoglutethimide. In the presence of aminoglutethimide both the basal and LH-stimulated production of testosterone was significantly reduced. However, in the same cultures aminoglutethimide did not alter either the basal or LH-stimulated production of oxytocin.
These data show that LH does not act via testosterone to stimulate oxytocin production and therefore acts directly or by some alternative indirect mechanism.
In this study it was found that two other factors, cell density and lipoprotein, also influenced oxytocin production by isolated Leydig cells. Decreasing the density at which Leydig cells were cultured from 106 to 10 cells/well significantly increased both their basal and LH-stimulated production of oxytocin. Lipoproteins were also found to stimulate oxytocin production in a dose-dependent manner and to synergize with LH to further increase LH-stimulated oxytocin production. The results of this study show the production of oxytocin by Leydig cells to be regulated not only by the gonadotrophin LH but also by lipoproteins which are known to be present in interstitial fluid. These data add to the accumulating evidence that intratesticular oxytocin may be a paracrine factor.
Journal of Endocrinology (1994) 143, 325–332