Photoperiod regulates testis cell apoptosis in Djungarian hamsters

I. Furuta, T. Porkka-Heiskanen, K. Scarbrough, J. Tapanainen, F. W. Turek, A. J W Hsueh

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78 Scopus citations


Reproductive activity in the Djungarian hamster is controlled by seasonal variations in day length. Exposure to long days stimulates testis development, while exposure to short days induces testis regression. We recently found that testis regression after gonadotropin deprivation in rats is associated with increases in apoptosis. Here we sought to determine whether or not apoptosis is associated with the testis regression and/or recrudescence that occurs naturally in seasonally breeding mammals. Newborn male hamsters were maintained on long days (16L:8D) until 3 wk of age before being transferred to short days (8L:16D). Following decreases in serum FSH within 3 days of exposure to short days, testis weight decreased by 52% at Day 10, reaching a 70% decrease after 21 days. Analysis of testis cell DNA fragmentation showed a 4.9-fold increase of low-molecular-weight DNA as early as 5 days after transfer to short days; this was followed by a time-dependent decrease. The observed increases in testis cell apoptosis were correlated with decreases in serum testosterone, but decreases in Leydig cell LH receptor content were delayed. In a second study, 6-wk-old hamsters with regressed testes due to a 3-wk exposure to short days were transferred back to long days. After increases in serum FSH within 3 days of photostimulation, a 2-fold elevation in testis weight was found at Day 5. The increase in testis weight was associated with a 65% decrease of testis apoptosis within 5 days of photostimulation. Also, increases in serum testosterone and LH receptor content were observed after 5 and 10 days of exposure to long days, respectively. These data indicate that neuroendocrine changes (including FSH release) induced by varying photoperiod length alter testis cell apoptosis, suggesting also that the induction or inhibition of apoptosis plays an important role in testis regression and/or recrudescence. The Djungarian hamster provides a valuable model for studying the neuroendocrine control of testis apoptosis in photoperiodic mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1315-1321
Number of pages7
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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