Histometrical evaluation of the testis was performed in 36 Piau pigs from birth to 16 mo of age to investigate Sertoli cell, Leydig cell, and germ cell proliferation. In addition, blood samples were taken in seven animals from 1 wk of age to adulthood to measure plasma levels of FSH and testosterone. Sertoli cell proliferation in pigs shows two distinct phases. The first occurs between birth and 1 mo of age, when the number of Sertoli cells per testis increases approximately sixfold. The second occurs between 3 and 4 mo of age, or just before puberty, which occurs between 4 to 5 mo of age, when Sertoli cells almost double their numbers per testis. The periods of Sertoli cell proliferation were concomitant with high FSH plasma levels and prominent elongation in the length of seminiferous cord/tubule per testis. Leydig cell volume increased markedly from birth to 1 mo of age and just before puberty. In general, during the first 5 mo after birth, Leydig cell volume growth showed a similar pattern as that observed for testosterone plasma levels. Also, the proliferation of Leydig cells per testis before puberty showed a pattern similar to that observed for Sertoli cells. However, Leydig cell number per testis increased up to 16 mo of age. Substantial changes in Leydig cell size were also observed after the pubertal period. From birth to 4 mo of age, germ cells proliferated continuously, increasing their number approximately two- to fourfold at each monthly interval. A dramatic increase in germ cells per cross-section of seminiferous tubule was observed from 4 to 5 mo of age; their number per tubule cross-section stabilized after 8 mo. To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study reporting the pattern of Sertoli cell, germ cell, and Leydig cell proliferative activity in pigs from birth to adulthood and the first study to correlate these events with plasma levels of FSH and testosterone.
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