Age-related change in numbers of other interstitial cells in testes of adult men: evidence bearing on the fate of Leydig cells lost with increasing age. Academic Article uri icon


  • The number of Leydig cells in the adult human testis declines as a function of increasing age, but whether these cells disappear by transforming into another cell type or by undergoing death and dissolution has not been resolved. This question was addressed in 30 men between 20 and 76 years of age who were known as a group to have experienced significant age-related loss of Leydig cells. If the loss of Leydig cells resulted from transformation into another cell type, other testicular interstitial cells in these men should have increased with age. Testes obtained at autopsy were perfused with glutaraldehyde less than 15 h after sudden death due to trauma or heart attack. Numbers of other interstitial cells were determined by quantitative histometric estimation of the proportion of testicular parenchyma occupied by other interstitial cell nuclei of measured average volume. Other interstitial cell nuclei declined significantly with advancing age (rho = -0.41, P less than 0.05). Mean number of other interstitial cell nuclei per individual was significantly reduced in the 15 men 50 yr old or older compared to the 15 younger men (460 +/- 34 million vs. 609 +/- 43 million; P less than 0.05). There was no tendency for individuals with reduced numbers of Leydig cells to have increased numbers of other interstitial cells. These findings argued against the persistence of Leydig cells in aged testes as dedifferentiated mesenchymal elements. Instead, light and electron microscopic observation of testes from these men revealed evidence of Leydig cell degeneration and dissolution.

published proceedings

  • Biol Reprod

author list (cited authors)

  • Neaves, W. B., Johnson, L., & Petty, C. S.

citation count

  • 60

complete list of authors

  • Neaves, WB||Johnson, L||Petty, CS

publication date

  • August 1985