Age-related and seasonal variation in the Sertoli cell population, daily sperm production and serum concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone and testosterone in stallions.
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Testes and blood samples were obtained from 201 stallions aged 6 months to 20 years in either December-January (nonbreeding season) or June-July (breeding season) to study the effect of age and season on reproductive parameters. Seasonal differences in the Sertoli cell population of adult (4-20 years old) horses were characterized by a 36% larger number of Sertoli cells in the breeding season than in the nonbreeding season. Seasonal elevation in the Sertoli cell population was associated with an increase in testicular weight and daily sperm production per testis (DSP/testis). Concentrations of luteinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone in serum varied with season. Although follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) concentrations also tended to be higher in the breeding season, this trend was not statistically significant (P less than 0.08). Sertoli cell numbers averaged over both seasons, like testicular weights, increased with age until 4-5 years of age, but were stabilized thereafter. This age-related difference was also associated with increased concentrations of FSH, LH and testosterone, and with increased DSP/testis. The Sertoli cell population was capable of increasing in the adult horse by fluctuating its size with season. The number of elongated spermatids per Sertoli cell over both seasons increased with age up to 4-5 years of age and was stabilized thereafter. Thus, seasonal and/or age-related differences in DSP/testis were associated with significant elevations in serum concentrations of FSH, LH and testosterone, testicular weights, numbers of elongated spermatids per Sertoli cell and elevation of the Sertoli cell population.