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Physiology of Testicular Function

  • Gerhard F WeinbauerAffiliated withResearch and Safety Assessment, Covance Laboratories GmbH Email author 
  • , Craig Marc LuetjensAffiliated withCovance Laboratories GmbH
  • , Manuela SimoniAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
  • , Eberhard NieschlagAffiliated withCentre for Reproductive Medicine and Andrology of the University

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The testes produce the male gametes and the male sexual hormones (androgens). The term spermatogenesis describes and includes all the processes involved in the production of gametes, whereas steroidogenesis refers to the enzymatic reactions leading to the production of male steroid hormones. Spermatogenesis and steroido-genesis take place in two compartments morphologically and functionally distinguishable from each other. These are the tubular compartment, consisting of the seminiferous tubules (tubuli seminiferi) and the interstitial compartment (interstitium) between the seminiferous tubules (Figs. 2.1 and 2.2). Although anatomically separate, both compartments are closely connected with each other. For quantitatively and qualitatively normal production of sperm the integrity of both compartments is necessary. The function of the testis and thereby also the function of its compartments are governed by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland (endocrine regulation). These endocrine effects are mediated and modulated at the testicular level by local control mechanisms (paracrine and autocrine factors).