Factors for consideration in the interpretation of the adverse effects of elevated environmental temperatures on reproduction in the male rat
Continuous exposure of male rats to an elevated environmental temperature (33 35° C) for 3 weeks led to heat-acclimatized (HA) rats whose serum testosterone concentratrion was significantly lower (P<0.01) than that of control (C) rats (20 22° C). The decrease in the androgen level was independent of major changes in serum FSH and LH concentrations, as well as hypothalamic content of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (THR), gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). However, the prostaglandin F2α(PGF2α) content of the hypothalamus of HA rats was significantly lower (P < 0.05) than that of C. The number of receptors for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) was significantly lower in testicular tissue of HA rats as compared to C males. Histological examination of the testis disclosed that exposure to heat adversely affected the sperm production and integrity of the Sertoli cells. Activity of enzymes associated with testosterone biosynthesis in testicular tissue of rats incubated at temperatures similar to those prevailing in the scrotum of HA rats resembled the activity of these enzymes observed in HA animals. Catabolism of testosterone was enhanced when kidney and liver of C rats were incubated at temperatures similar to the deep-body temperatures of HA rats, supporting the thesis that acclimatization to heat is coupled, inter alin, with increase androgen catabolism and excretion. It is suggested that the lower reproductive performance of HA rats is associated with several phenomena: a low number of receptors for hCG in the testes, decreased testoster one production rate by the Leydig cells, increased cata bolism and excretion of androgen, and partial atrophy of seminiferous tubules and Sertoli cells. These changes appear to be independent of either alteration in serum gonadotropin concentration or hypothalamic contents of TRH, GnR H and PGE2. The physiological significance in the response of PGF2α awaits further clarification.