Oxytocin (OT) is present in the mammalian testis and has been postulated to play a role in modulation of seminiferous tubule contractility. However, recent evidence suggests that the myoid cells responsible for such contractile activity do not express OT receptors. In this study computer-assisted analysis and time-lapse videomicrography were used to investigate the biological effects of neurohypophysial peptides and their analogues on seminiferous tubule contractility. Adult rat testes were placed in fresh oxygenated Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium (DMEM) F12 medium, decapsulated and the tubules gently teased apart. A small section of tubule was placed in a microslide chamber and perifused with medium. Seminiferous tubules were treated with OT (2 nM), [Arg8]-vasopressin (AVP, 0.2 nM) or [Thr4,Gly7]-OT (TGOT, 2 nM, 8 nM and 0.2 microM). Specific antagonists were also given simultaneously with OT and AVP treatments. Data were analysed to give arbitrary units of contractility. Both OT and AVP increased tubule contractility, with AVP being at least 10 times more potent than OT. Treatment with the selective OT antagonist, desGly-NH2,d(CH2)5[d-Tyr2,Thr4]-ornithine vasotocin (OTA, 0.2 microM and 2 microM) significantly reduced OT-induced increases in seminiferous tubule contractility but had no effect on AVP-induced responses. In contrast, the AVP antagonist, Phaa-d-Tyr(Me)-Phe-Gln-Asn-Arg-Pro-Arg-Tyr-NH2 (AVPA) was more potent at reducing AVP-induced increases than OT-induced responses. The selective non-peptide AVPA SR 49059 blocked the response to both peptides in a similar manner, whilst the non-peptide OTA L367,773 did not block OT-induced increases in seminiferous tubule contractility at doses that were slightly inhibitory to AVP-induced responses. The specific OT agonist TGOT did not induce a contractile response. The data in this study demonstrate that in the testis AVP acts via V1a receptors to stimulate contractile activity and suggest that OT may act via a receptor which differs from the classical V1a and uterine-type OT receptor. These findings support a role for OT in the regulation of seminiferous tubule contractility and raise the possibility that AVP may also be important in this process.
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