Leydig cells from immature rat testes appear to be insensitive to doses of ethane-1,2-dimethanesulfonate (EDS) which eliminate Leydig cells from adult rat testes. We sought to determine whether this differential response to EDS is intrinsic to the Leydig cell or mediated by other intra- or extratesticular differences between adult and immature rats. To differentiate among these possibilities, Leydig cells were exposed to EDS (1) in vivo, (2) through in vitro testicular perfusion, or (3) in highly purified Leydig cell primary cultures. Four days after ip injection of 85 mg EDS/kg body wt Leydig cells were eliminated from testes of adult, but not immature rats. Total androgen production by testes perfused in vitro with 94 μ EDS/ml was dramatically reduced in adult, but not immature rats. Highly purified adult, but not immature, rat Leydig cells were far more sensitive to the effects of EDS on luteinizing hormone-stimulated androgen production (functional effects; apparent EC50 = 94 for adult and 407 μg/ml for immature rat Leydig cells) and on [35S]methionine incorporation (cytotoxic effects; apparent EC50 = 140 for adult and 1000 μg/ml for immature rat Leydig cells). Finally, the in vitro effects of EDS were both cell type and chemical specific. Since the differential response of adult and immature rat Leydig cells to EDS was manifest in vivo, during in vitro testicular perfusion, and in highly purified Leydig cell primary cultures, we conclude that immature rat Leydig cells are intrinsically less sensitive to the specific cytotoxic effects of EDS than adult rat Leydig cells.
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