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Endorphin suppresses FSH-stimulated proliferation of isolated neonatal sertoli cells by a pertussis toxin-sensitive mechanism.

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THE ANATOMICAL RECORD 226:320-327 (1990)
Endorphin Suppresses FSH-Stimulated
Proliferation of Isolated Neonatal Sertoli Cells by
a Pertussis Tox in- Sensit ive Mechanism
Department of Anatomy, Temple University School of Medicine,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140
During perinatal development, when the size of the Sertoli cell
population is determined, Leydig cells produce p-endorphin, a peptide which may
interact with Sertoli cells to modify their FSH-responsiveness, as suggested by our
previous work. The goal of the present study was first, to test directly the possibility that p-endorphin modifies the proliferative response of neonatal Sertoli cells
to FSH, and second, to gain information on a mechanismb) involved in any observed effect. We treated isolated 6-day-old Sertoli cells with FSH or vehicle in
vitro and measured their incorporation of exogenous, radiolabeled thymidine with
quantitative autoradiography. After 2 days in culture with FSH, we detected a
10-fold increase in the rate of Sertoli cell proliferation. The level of cell division in
these FSH-treated cultures was identical to that in other cultures exposed to cAMP
under similar conditions. In addition, inclusion of P-endorphin 3 h r prior to FSH or
cAMP decreased the effect of the hormone by 50% but left the cAMP response
unchanged. Thus, p-endorphin acts on isolated, neonatal Sertoli cells at a point
prior to intracellular production of cAMP to suppress their response to FSH. When
other cultures were treated with pertussis toxin, a blocker of intracellular GTPbinding proteins such as Gi, before sequential addition of endorphin and FSH, the
effect of 6-endorphin on FSH-responsiveness was abolished. Moreover, when other
cultures were exposed to pertussis toxin in the absence of endorphin, followed by
FSH, their response to the hormone was unchanged. Thus, P-endorphin apparently
modifies the proliferative response of neonatal Sertoli cells to FSH via a mechanism involving one or more G proteins. These observations, along with our previous data showing enhanced Sertoli cell division in vivo in the presence of a n opiate
blocker, point to the existence of endorphin-mediated communication between Leydig and Sertoli cells during perinatal development and provide new evidence suggesting that paracrine mechanisms modify Sertoli cell function during perinatal
development, when the size of this population is established.
The size of the Sertoli cell population in rats is of
critical importance in maintaining normal output of
sperm in adults, as evidenced by our findings in Sertoli
cell-depleted rats (Orth et al., 1988). Following neonatal treatment with a n anti-mitotic drug, these rats possess lowered numbers of Sertoli cells at maturity.
Moreover, although germ cells in neonates are nonproliferative and hence unaffected by the anti-mitotic
drug, testes of these rats a s adults display a drop in
numbers of spermatids that parallels the decrease in
number of Sertoli cells. Hence, a n important quantitative relationship exists between Sertoli and germ cells
in the adult testis. Data from our laboratory (Orth,
1982) and that of others (Steinberger and Steinberger,
1971) indicate that Sertoli cells of rats proliferate only
during prenatal and early postnatal life, with cessation
of division occurring between 10 and 21 days of age.
Thus, the perinatal period of testicular development
when these cells divide is critical in establishing a Sertoli cell population of a size adequate to insure produc0 1990 WILEY-LISS. INC
tion of normal numbers of sperm at adulthood. As a
result, factors that modify Sertoli cell proliferation during perinatal life are likely to be of great importance in
insuring fertility of the adult.
In previous studies both in vivo and in vitro, we have
shown that FSH stimulates Sertoli cells of perinatal
rats to divide via a CAMP-mediated process (Orth,
1984) and that the level of Sertoli cell proliferation can
be modified during development by altering pituitarytesticular feedback mechanisms. For example, when
neonates are hemi-castrated the rate of Sertoli cell division in the remaining testis is elevated in response to
a rise in circulating FSH (Orth et al., 1984). Substan-
Received March 8, 1989; accepted May 25, 1989.
Data included in this report were presented at the joint meeting of
the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Society for
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, San Francisco, CA, January
tial evidence from other laboratories also indicates that
other, intratesticular mechanisms exist, at least in
adults, through which the function of testicular cells,
including Sertoli cells, can be modified (Sharpe, 1984;
Bardin e t al., 1988). One possible route of paracrine
regulation of Sertoli cells involves Leydig cells, shown
conclusively to be a n intratesticular source of POMCderived peptides such as 0-endorphin throughout fetal
and postnatal life (Pintar et al., 1984; Shaha et al.,
1984; Bardin e t al., 1987). Several lines of evidence
suggest that the Sertoli cell may be a target of endorphin. These include our previous demonstration that
interfering with the action of endogenous P-endorphin
in testes of fetal or newborn rats, either in vivo or in
organ culture, results in suppression of FSHstimulated proliferation of Sertoli cells (Orth, 1986).
This observation, along with those pointing to the Leydig cell as a source of endorphin, suggests that endorphin-mediated interaction may occur between Leydig
and Sertoli cells during development and that such interaction may modify the responsiveness of Sertoli cells
to FSH. Thus, communication between the interstitial
and seminiferous compartments of the maturing testis
could play a n important role in determining the size of
the Sertoli cell population, and therefore the eventual
output of sperm, in adult rats.
The aim of the present study was to probe further the
relationship between FSH-stimulated division of Sertoli cells and p-endorphin. Sertoli cells were isolated
from newborns and their rate of proliferation in vitro
was studied in the presence or absence of FSH, with or
without exogenously added endorphin. Since cells were
isolated from neonates, prior to development of SertoliSertoli junctional complexes, it was first important to
characterize the makeup of the cultures prior to their
use in these studies in order to verify that Sertoli cells
were indeed the major component. Therefore, incorporation of 3H-thymidine into cell nuclei and quantitative autoradiography were used as a measure of Sertoli
cell proliferation under different conditions. In addition, to test the possible involvement of GTP-binding
proteins in any observed effect of endorphin on FSHstimulated proliferation, pertussis toxin was included
in some experiments. The resulting data, coupled with
our previous findings from studies in vivo, strongly
suggest t h a t p-endorphin of Leydig cell origin acts directly on neonatal Sertoli cells to suppress their proliferative response to FSH and that this effect involves
interaction of endorphin with GTP-binding proteins in
these cells. Thus, p-endorphin-mediated communication between Leydig and Sertoli cells apparently provides a paracrine route through which Leydig cells
may modify the hormonal response of Sertoli cells during perinatal development.
Sertoli Cell Cultures
For each set of cultures, 20 male pups 6 days old (day
of birth = day 1) were killed by decapitation; their
testes were removed under aseptic conditions and decapsulated in sterile, ice-cold Dulbecco's Minimum Essential Medium (MEM; Gibco). To isolate Sertoli cells,
the testicular tissue was minced and treated further
according to the method of Rong-Xi et al. (19871, with
32 1
minor modifications. In brief, the minced tissue was
incubated with gentle shaking for 20 min in 30 ml of
MEM containing a mixture of 0.1% hyaluronidase
(Sigma), 0.1% collagenase (Gibco), and DNAase
(Sigma; 0.01 mg/30 ml) in MEM at 37"C, followed by
two washes in fresh MEM. After the enzyme treatment
and each wash, fragments of seminiferous cords were
allowed to settle on ice a t unit gravity for 15 min. Following the last wash, the resulting fragments were incubated at 37°C for 30 min each in 20 ml collagenase
(0.1% in MEM) + DNAase twice more, followed by a
final rinse in fresh MEM. The resulting fragments
were then dispersed into single cells by a brief treatment (approximately 2 min) in Ca-Mg-free Hank's
buffer containing 0.05% trypsin (Gibco) and 6 x 10-4
M EDTA. After sedimenting at approximately 200g
and washing with BSA-trypsin inhibitor (Sigma; 0.65%
and 0.05%, respectively), the resulting cells were resuspended in a small volume of plating medium (see
below). For each set of cultures, cell viability was evaluated by exposing a n aliquot of the single cell suspension to trypan blue and determining the yield of dyenegative cells in a hemocytometer.
Cells were cultured a t 37°C in a 5% COz atmosphere
in four-chamber tissue culture slides (Lab-Tek) previously coated with Matrigel (Collaborative Research);
the latter was diluted 1 : l with MEM, applied as a thin
coat to the slides and allowed to gel for 2-3 h r a t 32°C
prior to use. Two million cells were plated in each
chamber (1 x 104/mm2)in serum-free Eagle's D-val
MEM (Gibco) supplemented with Na Pyruvate (1mM)
and non-essential amino acids (0.1 mM), with fungizone (2.5 pg/ml) and penicillin (100 U/ml)-streptomycin (100 pg/ml) also included. The next morning,
approximately 18 h r after plating, all chambers were
rinsed in warm medium and fresh medium was added.
To determine the proportion of Sertoli cells to other
testicular cells (e.g., peritubular and Leydig cells) in
these preparations, several approaches were applied to
representative chambers. First, some cultures were
evaluated morphologically by processing them for electron microscopy, a s described below. Second, the ability
of cells in other chambers to respond to cAMP with a
change in shape was determined by adding db cAMP
(0.5 pM) or vehicle for 3-18 hr, followed by fixation
and inspection of the cells with phase contrast microscopy. Finally, several chambers were evaluated with
cytochemistry as previously described (Orth and Weisz,
1980) for the presence of cells displaying activity of
either 3P-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, a Leydig cell
marker, or alkaline phosphatase, a n indicator of peritubular cells (Chapin et al., 1987).
Studies of Sertoli Cell Proliferation In Vitro
To evaluate the effect of P-endorphin on Sertoli cell
division following exposure of cells to FSH or CAMP,
the following treatment grdups were established: first,
some cultures received FSH (oFSH-17; 1 pg/ml) from
either day 2 of the experiment onward or for only the
final 24 h r of culture, with and without addition of endorphin (1 pg/ml) 3 h r before FSH. Other cultures received db cAMP (0.5 pM), again with and without prior
addition of endorphin, either from day 2 onward or for
only the last day of culture.
To probe the mechanism involved in any observed
effect of p-endorphin, additional chambers first received pertussis toxin (1 pg/ml), a blocker of GTPbinding proteins, including Gi (Murayama and Ui,
1983);either p-endorphin or vehicle was added to these
chambers 3 h r later, followed by FSH, CAMP,or vehicle
after another 3 h r period. Additional cultures received
P-endorphin or pertussis toxin alone or in combination,
but no FSH or CAMP.Controls received only vehicle a t
appropriate times. All cultures were maintained for a
total of 4 days, with the various agents present from
the time of addition onward. For chambers that received hormone andlor peptide from days 2 through 4,
a n agentb) was freshly added on day 3 when medium
was changed. In all chambers, 3H-thymidine (New England Nuclear; 6.7 Ci/mmol; 1 pCi/ml final concentration) was included for the final 24 h r in vitro. At the
end of the 4th day, cultures were fixed a s described
below and subjected to autoradiography as detailed
previously (Orth, 1982). In brief, slides were coated after fixation with undiluted Kodak NTB-3 emulsion and
allowed to expose in darkness for 7 days. At the end of
this period, the cultures were photographically developed, stained with methylene blue, and viewed with
conventional light microscopy for quantitation. Proliferative nuclei were heavily labeled by 3H-thymidine
and, after this length of photographic exposure, were
overlain by silver grains and easily distinguished from
those surrounding nuclei that had not incorporated label.
Quantitation and Statistical Analysis
These experiments were carried out on three separate occasions, with a different cell isolation providing
the cultures each time. For each trial, cell proliferation
was measured in all treatment groups a s follows: cultures were examined a t 100 x magnification; 2,0003,000 cell nuclei were chosen in each chamber in a
non-random manner to insure against viewer bias and
were scored a s labeled or unlabeled by 3H-thymidine.
The data for each chamber were expressed as the percentage of cells counted that had incorporated label
into their nuclei. Thus, three or four chambers were
studied and a total of 6,000 or more cells were quantified for each treatment. The final data were expressed
as the mean percentage of cells labeled ( & SEM) for the
various groups. A one-way analysis of variance was
then used to determine whether differences existed
among the groups, and these differences were subsequently located with a Newman-Keuls test.
Electron Microscopy
Plastic chambers were removed from the culture
slides and cells were processed in situ for electron microscopy a s follows. After fixing for 30 min a t 4°C in
2.5% glutaraldehyde-0.1M Na cacodylate, pH 7.4, containing 5% sucrose, the cultures were post-fixed in 1%
osmium tetroxide reduced with 1.5%K ferrocyanide for
30 min and then mordanted in 1% tannic acid in O.1M
Na cacodylate for 30 min at 4°C. Following subsequent
dehydration through 100% ethanol, the cultures were
infiltrated with Epon-Araldite. Beem capsules containing unpolymerized plastic were then inverted over the
cells and the slides were placed overnight at 60°C. The
next day, capsules containing polymerized plastic with
embedded cells were removed from the slides by brief
Fig. 1. An electron micrograph of cells isolated from 6-day-old pups,
fixed the morning after plating, and sectioned parallel to the surface
of the chamber. The great majority of cells in these cultures possessed
irregular, indented nuclei with single nucleoli, elongated mitochondria, and occasional lipid droplets, characteristics consistent with
those of Sertoli cells. x 6,630.
immersion of the entire slide in liquid N P . Thin sections were cut parallel to the surface of the cultures
with a Reichert Ultracut E microtome, post-stained in
uranyl acetate and Reynold's lead citrate, and viewed
and photographed with a Philips 300 electron microscope.
Characterization of Cultures
Isolated cells adhered to and spread upon the underlying Matrigel substrate within 30-60 min after plating to form confluent cultures. Figure 1is a representative ultrastructural view of a culture that was rinsed
and fixed the morning after plating; the plane of section was parallel to the surface of the chamber. The
great majority of the cells in these cultures had a morphology consistent with that of Sertoli cells, with irregular, often indented nuclei containing some peripheral
heterochromatin. Nucleoli, where present in the section, were single and displayed a tripartite morphology
characteristic of Sertoli cells. In addition, mitochondria
were typically elongated and cytoplasmic liquid droplets were occasionally seen. Peritubular cells, easily
identifiable by their rough endoplasmic reticulum con-
Fig. 2. Cultures incubated on the morning after isolation with either dibutyryl cAMP (b)or vehicle (a)
and fixed 3 hr later. Nearly all cells responded to the presence of the cyclic nucleotide with a rapid and
dramatic change in shape which was maintained as long as cAMP was present. x 400.
taining copious flocculent material, were encountered
on rare occasion.
When similar cultures were exposed to dibutyrl
cAMP and viewed with phase contrast microscopy, the
vast majority of the cells became rounded centrally and
displayed elongated peripheral processes, a s shown in
Figure 2. This change in cell shape was apparent in
most cells by 1 h r and was maintained so long as cAMP
was present in the cultures. In addition, less than 5%of
the cells in representative cultures displayed reaction
product following cytochemical incubation for alkaline
phosphatase, a n enzyme characteristic of myoid cells.
Finally, to probe the possibility of contamination by
Leydig cells, the activity of the steroidogenic enzyme
3p-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase was also visualized
with LM cytochemistry. Virtually no cells reactive for
this enzyme were encountered in any of the chambers
FSH, p-Endorphin, and Sertoli Cell Proliferation In Vitro
Figure 3 provides typical autoradiographs of cultures
that were either untreated or exposed to FSH from day
2 of culture onward, with and without inclusion of pendorphin. Labeled thymidine was present during the
final 24 hours of culture for all treatments. While few
labeled nuclei were found in unstimulated controls
(Fig. 3a), FSH caused a dramatic and obvious increase
in the proportion of Sertoli cells t h a t incorporated
3H-thymidine into their nuclei (Fig. 3b). However,
when p-endorphin was added 3 h r prior to the hormone, the proliferative response of the cells to FSH was
apparently suppressed (Fig. 3c). This qualitative obser-
vation was confirmed when dividing Sertoli cells were
quantified in autoradiographs of similarly treated cultures; the final data from all groups studied, expressed
as the mean of three trials for each treatment, are
given in Figure 4. The level of proliferation in unstimulated control cultures was low, below 2% in all dishes,
and unaffected by pertussis toxin alone or pertussis
toxin plus endorphin. However, addition of either FSH
or cAMP on day 2 resulted in a n approximately 10-fold
increase (P<.Ol)in the percent of cells incorporating
labeled thymidine. When p-endorphin was added to
cultures prior to FSH, the response of the cells to the
hormone was substantially diminished (P<.Ol),by approximately 50%. In addition, exposure of cells to pertussis toxin before addition of 6-endorphin completely
abolished the ability of endorphin to suppress their proliferative response to FSH; the level of proliferation in
FSH-stimulated cultures treated with pertussis toxin
followed by endorphin was essentially identical to that
in other cultures given FSH alone. Finally, when cells
were treated with endorphin prior to addition of CAMP,
the percent of cells labeled was not different than that
measured in cultures exposed to cAMP alone from day
2 of the experiment onward.
To gain information on the responsiveness of neonatal Sertoli cells cultured without constant exposure to
hormone or cyclic nucleotide, other cultures were
maintained in vitro for 3 days without any additions
followed by inclusion of FSH or cAMP for the 4th day;
3H-thymidine was added to these cultures for the final
24 h r of culture, and the percentage of cells dividing
was compared to t h a t in unstimulated controls. Under
these conditions, FSH had no significant effect on the
level of Sertoli cell proliferation (1.61% vs. 1.43%),
while cAMP dramatically increased the percent of Sertoli cells labeled (23.1% vs. 1.43% for controls) to a level
similar to that seen in the earlier incubations for which
cAMP was present from day 2 onward. Moreover, in
these incubations endorphin again had no effect on the
proliferative response of Sertoli cells to the cyclic nucleotide.
Fig. 3. Low-power views of autoradiographs showing representative
areas of cultures maintained for 4 days, with 3H-thymidine present
for the last 24 hr. Individual nuclei of proliferating cells are heavily
labeled with 3H-thymidine and appear black. Treatments were: a)
vehicle alone, b) FSH from days 2 through 4, c ) P-endorphin and FSH
from days 2 through 4, with the peptide added 3 hr prior to FSH.
x 360.
Our observation of lowered FSH-induced proliferation in isolated, neonatal Sertoli cells exposed first to
endorphin indicates that the latter interacts with these
cells to depress their responsiveness to FSH, a hormone
shown previously by us to be a major factor controlling
growth of the Sertoli cell population during testicular
development (Orth, 1984). Since we also observed that
endorphin does not interfere with stimulation of Sertoli
cell division by CAMP, the peptide apparently suppresses the responsiveness of Sertoli cells to FSH by
acting at a point prior to production of cyclic nucleotide
within the cells. Moreover, we also found that prior
inclusion of pertussis toxin with Sertoli cells blocked
the negative effect of endorphin on their response to
FSH but had no effect by itself on FSH-stimulated division. From this, we conclude that pertussis toxin interferes with the action of endorphin on Sertoli cells
exposed to the hormone. Pertussis toxin has been
shown by several investigators to ADP-ribosylate and
hence inactivate several membrane-associated GTPbinding proteins, including Gi (Murayama and Ui,
19831, a regulatory component of adenyl cyclase that
inhibits its activity (Birnbaumer et al., 1985). Thus,
our findings with pertussis toxin suggest that endorphin blunts the enhancement of adenyl cyclase activity
in Sertoli cells following their exposure to FSH by potentiating the interaction of GTP with one or more G
proteins in these cells.
Our current observations are generally consistent
with findings of others concerning the effects of inhibitory ligands on Sertoli cells, a t least from older rats.
Opiate receptors have been detected on mature Sertoli
cells in vitro and shown to mediate suppression of FSHstimulated production of both ABP (Fabbri e t al., 1985)
and inhibin (Morris et al., 1987) by these cells in
culture. Moreover, Monaco et al. (1988) recently demonstrated that another inhibitory factor, adenosine,
substantially depresses FSH-stimulated cAMP accumulation in Sertoli cells isolated from prepuberal rats.
In addition, findings arising from use of pertussis toxin
in that study suggest that adenosine receptors are coupled to the inhibitory component of adenyl cyclase, Gi.
These observations on adenosine and prepuberal Sertoli cells largely parallel ours on endorphin and cells
from neonates, suggesting that other factors may act to
regulate hormonal responsiveness of these cells during
testicular maturation.
Our current data, along with that of our previous
study (Orth, 19861, suggest that the physiological role
of testicular endorphin in the fetal and neonatal rat
may be to modify growth Of the Sertoli
by regulating the response of these cells to FSH. In our
earlier study in viva, we found that local injection of
testes of neonateswith antiserumto endorphin caused
Fig. 4. The percentage of Sertoli cell nuclei labeled by 3H-thymidine
in autoradiographs of cultures exposed to FSH, CAMP,or vehicle from
days 2 through 4 in vitro, with or without prior inclusion of p-endorphin. In some chambers, pertussis toxin was also added 3 hr before
f-endorphin andior FSH. Controls received vehicle alone, and
H-thymidine was added to all cultures for the final 24 hr. In each
group, 2,000-3,000 cells were examined in each of three or four chambers and labeled nuclei were quantified. Both FSH and cAMP dra-
matically increased the percentage of cells dividing compared to controls (P<.Ol).Although prior addition of P-endorphin left the response
to cAMP unaffected, it greatly reduced that of the cells to FSH
(P<.Ol).However, when pertussis toxin was added before P-endorphin, the proliferative response of the cells to FSH was identical to
that seen with FSH alone. Neither P-endorphin nor pertussis toxin
had any effect on cellular proliferation in controls.
a dramatic drop in the rate of Sertoli cell proliferation
in those testes 6-17 hr later (Orth et al., 1984).In that
study, we also examined intact fetal testes in organ
culture and found that FSH caused a major elevation of
Sertoli cell division under these conditions. However,
when naloxone was added to the cultures prior to FSH,
the response of the cells to the hormone was substantially increased. This suggested that, in the absence of
naloxone, endogenous opiate partially suppressed the
response of the cells to FSH, a conclusion borne out by
the findings of the present study. It is interesting to
note that, when we subsequently tested the effect of
exogenously added endorphin on Sertoli cell division in
other experiments in vivo and in organ culture, we
were unable to demonstrate any direct effect of the
peptide (unpublished observations). This presumably
reflected the fact that Sertoli cells in vivo or in situ in
organ cultures were already maximally affected by endogenous endorphin. Our present findings obtained
with isolated Sertoli cells support this conclusion and
confirm that endorphin interacts directly with Sertoli
cells, in the virtual absence of other testicular cells, to
regulate their FSH-responsiveness.
A major source of testicular endorphin in vivo is no
doubt the Leydig cell. This conclusion is supported by
substantial evidence from several studies showing that
Leydig cells of rats express the POMC-gene during development and again at maturity (Pintar et al., 1984;
Shaha et al., 1984; Bardin et al., 1987) and release
P-endorphin into testicular interstitial fluid in vivo
(Valenca and Negro-Vilar, 1986). Indeed, since levels
of endorphin in interstitial fluid greatly surpass those
measured in peripheral blood of adult rats, Leydig cells
apparently release considerable amounts of endorphin
in vivo. When these observations are considered along
with our data on neonatal Sertoli cells and those of
others on cells from adults (Fabbri et al., 1985), it
seems likely that endorphin of Leydig cell origin is a
component of a local communication system functioning between these cells and Sertoli cells both during
development and at maturity. This notion is further
supported by the observation of a bi-phasic secretion of
endorphin by Leydig cells. Both the number of Leydig
cells immunostainable for p-endorphin (Shaha et al.,
1984) and the amount of POMC transcript detectable
in these cells (Gizang-Ginsberg and Wolgemuth, 1987)
are high in perinatal testes when Sertoli cells are dividing; subsequently, testicular endorphin becomes
low or undetectable in prepuberal rats after Sertoli
cells cease mitosis. After puberty, endorphin production resumes and continues during adult life (GizangGinsberg and Wolgemuth, 1987). Although our data
suggest that, by virtue of their secretion of endorphin,
Leydig cells of perinatal rats play a paracrine role as
intratesticular regulators of Sertoli cell population
size, the function of endorphin in the adult testis is
presently unknown.
It is interesting that, in the presence of the relatively
large dose of P-endorphin used in the current study, the
percentage of proliferative Sertoli cells in FSH-treated
cultures was reduced by about half compared to other
chambers containing hormone but lacking p-endorphin. Thus, the level of cell division in cultures exposed
to endorphin and FSH was still greater than that in
untreated controls. Although correlating Sertoli cell
responsiveness with various levels of endorphin dosage
was beyond the scope of this initial study, it is unlikely
that insufficient peptide was present to fully suppress
the FSH-responsiveness of the cells. Other explanations for the persistence of some proliferative Sertoli
cells in endorphin-treated,FSH-stimulated cultures include the possibility that not all cells react equally to
p-endorphin, perhaps due to the presence of a sub-population in these cultures that lacks endorphin receptors. This and other alternatives will be explored further in future studies of endorphin-FSH interaction
with Sertoli cells of newborn rats.
We also found that the responsiveness of neonatal
Sertoli cells to FSH after several days in vitro apparently depends on the conditions under which the cells
are initially cultured. FSH elicited a dramatic increase
in the percent of Sertoli cells labeled by 3H-thymidine
when the hormone was included from day 2 through
day 4 in vitro and the isotope was added for the 4th day
of culture. In contrast, if FSH was added at the same
time as 3H-thymidine, for only the final 24 h r in vitro,
no significant increase in the rate of proliferation of
these cells was detectable. Failure of the cells to respond to FSH under these conditions was apparently
not due to insufficient time of exposure to the hormone
since, in a previous study, we observed a proliferative
response of fetal Sertoli cells after a considerably
shorter incubation with FSH (Orth, 1984). Moreover,
since we found that the cells still responded to CAMP
after 3 days of culture without added factors, they apparently did not lose their inherent ability to initiate
division during this period in vitro. These observations
suggest that isolated neonatal Sertoli cells require sustained exposure to FSH to retain their responsiveness
to this hormone. The most likely explanation for this
finding is that the presence of FSH throughout the culture period insures the ability of Sertoli cells to respond
by maintaining availability of FSH receptors on these
cells. This apparent up-regulation of neonatal Sertoli
cells by FSH may involve either stimulation of receptor
synthesis de novo or enhanced re-cycling of receptor to
the cell surface. Similar observations for LH (Huhtaniemi et al., 1981)suggest that this hormone also upregulates its receptor on immature Leydig cells, in contrast to its down-regulation of mature Leydig cells.
Thus, both FSH and LH may interact differently with
their target cells in developing animals than in adults.
In summary, p-endorphin acts directly on Sertoli
cells to blunt their proliferative response to FSH via a
mechanism likely to involve a n intracellular G protein
that modifies the level of adenyl cyclase activity in the
presence of the hormone. The current data, coupled
with previous findings from our laboratory, provide evidence supporting the concept of communication between Leydig cells and Sertoli cells of perinatal rats via
a paracrine system involving P-endorphin produced by
Leydig cells. Our previous reports have documented
the role of FSH as a physiological stimulus of Sertoli
cell division during testicular development that regulates the ultimate size of the Sertoli cell population and
thus critically affects the output of spermatogenic cells
at maturity. The existence of a n endorphin-based
mechanism whereby the interstitial compartment
modifies the response of developing Sertoli cells to
FSH, as supported by our current data, suggests that
Leydig cells also play a vital role in defining the size of
the Sertoli cell population. Thus, functional interaction
between Leydig and Sertoli cells is apparently established during development, underscoring further the
critical nature of the perinatal period for future testicular function in the adult.
The authors acknowledge with gratitude a gift of
ovine FSH from the National Pituitary Agency.
This work was supported by NIH Grant HD-15563
(to J.O.) and Research Career Development Award HD00591 (to J.O.).
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suppressor, mechanism, isolated, endorphins, sertoli, toxic, cells, pertussis, fsh, proliferation, sensitive, stimulate, neonatal
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