Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 271, Issue 3, pp 429–439 | Cite as

The Leydig cell of the human testis —A new member of the diffuse neuroendocrine system

  • M. S. Davidoff
  • W. Schulze
  • R. Middendorff
  • A. -F. Holstein


A number of marker substances for neuronal and neuroendocrine cells have been demonstrated in the cytoplasm of the interstitial Leydig cells of human testes using basic immunocytochemical methods and some of their modifications. We were able to reveal immunoreactivity for enzymes involved in the synthesis of the catecholamines dopamine and noradrenaline (tryosine hydroxylase, aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase, dopamine-β-hydroxylase), for the indolamine 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), as well as for a number of wellknown neuronal markers such as the neurofilament protein 200, synaptophysin, chromogranin A+B, the neural cell-adhesion molecule (N-CAM), the microtubule-associated protein (MAP-2), and the calcium-binding proteins: S-100, calbindin and parvalbumin. Immunoreactivity for these substances was found in the majority of the interstitial cells although differences in the staining intensity among the individual Leydig cells and among Leydig cells from different patients were observed. At the electron-microscopic level the Leydig cell cytoplasm was seen to contain microtubules, intermediate- and microfilaments as well as clear (40–60 nm) and dense-core (100–300 nm) vesicles, providing a morphological correlate for some of the immunocytochemical results. Although individual marker substances are not absolutely specific for nerve and neuroendocrine cells, the results obtained, together with the already established neuronspecific enolase-, substance P-, methionine-enkephalinand proopiomelanocortin (POMC)-derived peptide-like immunoreactivity, provide strong evidence for the neuroendocrine (paraneuronal, APUD-like) nature of the Leydig cells of the human testis.

Key words

Leydig cells Testis Neuroendocrine cell markers Immunocytochemistry Neuroendocrine/paraneuronal cells Human 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. Davidoff
    • 1
  • W. Schulze
    • 2
  • R. Middendorff
    • 3
  • A. -F. Holstein
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Cell Biology and MorphologyBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.Abteilung für AndrologieUniversitäts-Krankenhaus EppendorfHamburg 20Germany
  3. 3.Anatomisches InstitutUniversitäts-Krankenhaus EppendorfHamburg 20Germany

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