The relative role of LH and FSH in regulation of differentiation of Leydig cells was assessed using an ethane 1,2-dimethylsulfonate (EDS)-treated rat model in which endogenous LH or FSH was neutralized from day 3 to day 22 following EDS treatment. Serum testosterone and the in vitro response of the purified Leydig cells to human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) was monitored. In addition RNA was isolated from the Leydig cells to monitor the steady-state mRNA levels by RT-PCR for 17alpha-hydroxylase, side chain cleavage enzyme, steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), LH receptor, estrogen receptor (ER-alpha) and cyclophilin (internal control). Serum testosterone was undetected and the isolated Leydig cells secreted negligible amount of testosterone on stimulation with hCG in the group of rats that were treated with LH antiserum following EDS treatment. RT-PCR analysis revealed the absence of message for cholesterol side chain cleavage enzyme and 17alpha-hydroxylase although ER-alpha and LH receptor mRNA could be detected, indicating the presence of undifferentiated precursor Leydig cells. In contrast, the effects following deprival of endogenous FSH were not as drastic as seen following LH neutralization. Deprival of endogenous FSH in EDS-treated rats led to a significant decrease in serum testosterone and in vitro response to hCG by the Leydig cells. Also, there was a significant decrease in the steady-state mRNA levels of 17alpha-hydroxylase, cholesterol side chain cleavage enzyme, LH receptor and StAR as assessed by a semiquantitative RT-PCR. These results establish that while LH is obligatory for the functional differentiation of Leydig cells, repopulation of precursor Leydig cells is independent of LH, and also unequivocally establish an important role for FSH in regulation of Leydig cell function.
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