In the rat, the cytotoxic drug ethylene dimethane sulfonate (EDS) selectively eliminates mature Leydig cells (LCs) from testicular interstitium, activating a complex process of proliferation and differentiation of pre-existing LC precursors. We observed previously that after EDS treatment, the early LC precursors persistently express a truncated 1.8 kb form of LH receptor (LHR) mRNA. This prompted us to study whether experimental cryptorchidism, known to alter the process of LC repopulation, can influence the pattern of testicular LHR mRNA expression after EDS administration. EDS treatment completely eliminated mature LCs both in control and unilaterally cryptorchid (UC) rats. This response was followed by gradual reappearance of newly formed, functionally active LCs, as evidenced by the recovery in testicular LHR content and plasma testosterone levels in both experimental groups. Noteworthy, the rate of LC repopulation was higher in the abdominal testes of UC rats, in keeping with previous findings. Interestingly, the 1.8 kb LHR transcript was persistently expressed in scrotal testes at all time-points, but undetectable upon Northern hybridization in abdominal testes at early stages after EDS administration, when low levels of expression of truncated LHR transcripts could only be detected by semi-quantitative RT-PCR analysis. In addition, the faster LC repopulation in cryptorchid testes was associated with precocious recovery of the complete array of LHR mRNA transcripts, including the 1.8 kb species. These changes appeared acutely and irreversibly, as unilateral positioning of scrotal testes into the abdomen resulted in a rapid loss of expression of the 1.8 kb LHR transcript, whereas scrotal relocation of the UC testes failed to alter the pattern of LHR gene expression. In conclusion, experimental cryptorchidism changes the pattern of LHR mRNA expression in rat testis after selective LC destruction by EDS. This change, i.e. repression of the 1.8 kb LHR transcript after EDS administration, is acute and irreversible, and likely related to the impairment of testicular microenvironment following cryptorchidism. However, even though at low levels, the expression of truncated forms of LHR mRNA appears to be a universal feature of proliferating LC precursors. The UC testis may represent a good model for analysis of the regulatory signals involved in the control of LHR gene expression.
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