Leydig cell micronodules are a common finding in testicular biopsies from men with impaired spermatogenesis and are associated with decreased testosterone/LH ratio

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To assess the biological significance of Leydig cell 'hyperplasia' in man, Leydig cell distribution, volume, and function were studied in patients with infertility or testicular cancer and in suddenly deceased controls. A total of 156 biopsies from 95 patients and 18 necropsies from 13 controls were examined using a semi-quantitative stereological method. In patients, serum concentrations of testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), oestradiol and inhibin-B were correlated with the findings on histological examination. Leydig cell clusters of more than 15 cells in a cross-section, for which we proposed the name 'micronodules', were frequently seen in testicles exhibiting Sertoli-cell-only syndrome (SCO), a mixed pattern of impaired spermatogenesis, or complete spermatogenesis in combination with elevated FSH. Median numbers of micronodules per 1.77 mm(2) (four fields of vision) in these three histological patterns were 6, 4, and 3.5, respectively. In contrast, micronodules were only occasionally observed in testicular biopsies from patients with complete spermatogenesis and normal gonadotrophin levels (median 1), and were rare in testes from controls (median = 0, p = 0.02). The proportion of testicular tissue occupied by Leydig cells increased with decreasing spermatogenic capacity. In contrast, the total volume of Leydig cells per testis was roughly comparable irrespective of the histological pattern, with the exception of testes with bilateral micronodules, which had significantly increased Leydig cell volume compared to those without micronodules. The number of micronodules correlated positively to LH (r = 0.577, p <0.01) and FSH (r = 0.595, p <0.01) and the presence of micronodules was most pronounced in the hyperstimulated testes, as reflected by an increased LH/testosterone ratio. In conclusion, Leydig cell micronodules were more frequent in biopsies with impaired spermatogenesis and associated with decreased ratios of testicular hormones to gonadotrophins. The presence of micronodules thus seems to be a histological marker of testicular failure in man.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)378-86
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2003

ID: 34118463