Regulation of testicular function in men: implications for male hormonal contraceptive development
Amory, John K.
Bremner, William J.
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In the adult male, the testes produce both sperm and testosterone. The function of the testicles is directed by the central nervous system and pituitary gland. Precise regulation of testicular function is conferred by an elegant feedback loop in which the secretion of pituitary gonadotropins is stimulated by gonadotropin hormone-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus and modulated by testicular hormones. Testosterone and its metabolites estradiol and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) as well as inhibin B inhibit the secretion of the gonadotropins both directly at the pituitary and centrally at the level of the hypothalamus. In the testes, LH stimulates testosterone synthesis and FSH promotes spermatogenesis, but the exact details of gonadotropin action are incompletely understood. A primary goal of research into understanding the hormonal regulation of testicular function is the development of reversible, safe and effective male hormonal contraceptives. The administration of exogenous testosterone suppresses pituitary gonadotropins and hence spermatogenesis in most, but not all, men. The addition of a second agent such as a progestin or a GnRH antagonist yields more complete gonadotropin suppression; such combination regimens effectively suppress spermatogenesis in almost all men and may soon bring the promise of hormonal male contraception to fruition.