Summary. The relationship between the pituitary gland and testis in rams was studied from birth to sexual maturity. The concentrations of LH, FSH and testosterone increased between 5 and 7 weeks of age; the rise was not correlated with any specific cytological change in the testis. An augmented pituitary response to LH-RH was demonstrated as levels of gonadotrophin increased. It is unclear whether this change in sensitivity plays a role in initiation of the pubertal process because Sertoli cell maturation, the earliest detectable change in the seminiferous epithelium, occurs between 17 and 21 weeks of age. Spermatocytes were first seen in biopsies taken at 3136 weeks and spermatogenesis was established fully by 45 weeks. This second phase of testicular development was characterized by increases in prolactin, testosterone and LH. Leydig cells previously difficult to identify became recognizable at the time of sexual maturation.
In newborn rams, castration produced significant increases in LH and FSH levels within 23 weeks, but higher basal FSH levels (2- to 3-fold) were observed at 5 than at 3 weeks of age. Cryptorchidism did not elevate LH or FSH significantly during the first year of life. FSH rose after this period to levels 2- to 3-fold higher than in normal rams, while LH and testosterone values remained in the normal range in spite of diminished spermatogenic activity; spermatids were absent and testis size was approximately 60% of that recorded in a normal ram.
These studies demonstrate a rise in gonadotrophin and testosterone secretion in rams during the first 57 weeks of life, followed by a quiescent period of 89 months before a secondary increase occurs coincident with the establishment of sexual maturity.
© 1981 Journals of Reproduction & Fertility Ltd