Using the human disease model of men with idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (IHH), it is possible to: a) control the timing and pace of their testicular maturation via administration of either exogenous gonadotropins or pulsatile GnRH; b) manipulate their gonadal sex steroid hormonal milieu by administration of steroid hormone inhibitors; and c) vary the dose and frequency of their hypothalamic input of GnRH. This ability to clamp the hypothalamic input to their pituitary via GnRH and contrast the responses of IHH men with those of normal and castrate men (whose hypothalamic-pituitary-axis is unconstrained) allows us to dissect the hypothalamic from pituitary sites of action and address several physiologic issues that are not otherwise approachable in the human. Thus, In Specific Aim #1, we will thus explore the relative roles of gonadal sex steroids and Inhibin B (IB) in restraining FSH secretion across the full spectrum of gonadal development were serum IB levels vary from prepubertal levels to those of normal adult men. Our preliminary results suggest that their relative roles appear to change during gonadal maturation. It also permits us to understand the role of the frequency of GnRH in FSH feedback and thus place it in context with both sex steroids and lB.
In Specific Aims # 2 & 3, this model allows us to test the ability of FSH to increase Sertoli and germ cell number, testicular size, and sperm counts when administered to IHH men with immature gonads and compare these results with those obtained when FSH stimulation is accompanied by that of LH via pulsatile GnRH therapy. During such studies we will also have access to testicular tissue in these men and thus can validate both MIS and IB as markers of Sertoli cell numbers, proliferation, and maturation in a quantitative and statistically valid fashion that has not been previously possible. In collaboration with Dr. Martin Dym, we will perform quantitative histomorphometry on these maturing gonads via serial testicular biopsies prior to and following 4 months of therapy and correlate these histological findings with serial measurements of IB and MIS as well as other clinical and biochemical aspects of gonadal maturation. Finally, in Specific Aim #4, the availability of serial testicular tissue in these men during Sertoli and early germ cell development will allow us to gain insight into the specific genes activated in the human during early testicular development. Thus, these studies offer a unique approach to gain new insights into the physiology and developmental biopsy of the male reproductive axis. They also lay the groundwork that provides a context for the exploration of new tools to gain further insights into the complexities of reproductive dysfunction in the male.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Reproductive Endocrinology Study Section (REN)
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Rankin, Tracy L
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Massachusetts General Hospital
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