Hormonal regulation of spermatogenesis
Holdcraft, Robert W.
Braun, Robert E.
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Proper functioning of the mammalian testis is dependent upon an array of hormonal messengers acting through endocrine, paracrine, and autocrine pathways. Within the testis, the primary messengers are the gonadotrophins, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, and the androgens. Abundant evidence indicates that the role of the gonadotrophins is to maintain proper functioning of testicular somatic cells. It is the androgens, primarily testosterone, which act through the somatic cells to regulate germ cell differentiation. Despite extensive research in this area, little is known about the cell-specific requirements for androgens and even less is understood about the downstream effectors of androgen signalling. However, recent work using cell-specific ablation of androgen receptor function has demonstrated a clear requirement for androgen signalling at multiple, discrete time points during spermatogenesis. These models also provide useful tools for identifying the targets of androgen receptor activity. The purpose of this review is to provide a brief overview of recent advances in our understanding of hormonal regulation of spermatogenesis, with an emphasis on the role of testosterone within the testis, and to pose important questions for future research in this field.