To investigate alterations in the molecular weight forms of inhibin in bull testis from the infantile (4–5 wk of age) to postpubertal (49–56 wk of age) periods, testicular homogenates were obtained from animals of various ages and fractionated by a combination of immunoaffinity chromatography and SDS-PAGE. Subsequently, the fractions eluted from the SDS gels were assayed for total inhibin, inhibin A, and inhibin B by fluoroimmunoassay or immunofluorometric assays (IFMAs) and for inhibin bioactivity by an in vitro bioassay. The molecular mass patterns of inhibin A and inhibin B in the testis, as determined by the dimer-specific IFMAs, showed the presence of a peak of approximate 47 kDa until 21–26 wk of age. However, the peak disappeared after 31–32 wk of age. As bulls aged, especially after 31–32 wk of age, inhibin A and inhibin B levels increased in the molecular mass region of 27–34 kDa. Total inhibin showed two peaks, of between 20 and 26 kDa and at approximately 47 kDa, until 21–26 wk of age and a single peak between 20 and 30 kDa after 31–32 wk of age. The eluted fractions corresponding to 29, 31, or 47 kDa gave a dose-response curve that was parallel to the curve generated with 32-kDa inhibin A or 29-kDa inhibin B standard in the IFMA for inhibin A or inhibin B. The fractions corresponding to 29 and 31 kDa suppressed basal release of FSH from rat pituitary cells, but the 47-kDa fraction had a lower FSH-suppressing activity. In the testes of older bulls, immunoblot analysis revealed the presence of a 29-kDa band cross-reacting with inhibin α and inhibin βB antibodies and of a 31-kDa band cross-reacting with inhibin α and inhibin βA antibodies. The 47-kDa band was recognized by the α, βA, and βB antibodies. Immunohistochemisty of the testis at each age showed that inhibin α subunits were found exclusively in Sertoli cells, but the intensity of immunostaining diminished in older bulls, in parallel with the decrease in the testicular concentrations of total inhibin. We conclude that 1) bovine Sertoli cells produce both inhibin A and inhibin B, 2) inhibin production in Sertoli cells during the prepubertal period is characterized by the 47 kDa inhibin-related material that contains precursor forms of inhibin A and inhibin B, and 3) the proportion of the mature forms of inhibin A and inhibin B increases as bulls age, although total inhibin production in Setroli cells decreases.
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