Kidney and liver are the major organs of erythropoietin (Epo) synthesis. However, Epo messenger RNA (mRNA) has been detected in several organs, such as brain, lung, and testis. Furthermore, functional Epo receptors have been demonstrated on different cell types, including rat Leydig cells. The aim of the study was to identify testicular cells expressing Epo mRNA and to quantitate its levels by competitive reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR). Besides whole testis, Epo transcripts were found in Sertoli and peritubular myoid cells, while no signal was detected in Leydig cells. Exposure of Sertoli cells to CoCl2 led to an increase of Epo mRNA level. Semiquantitative competitive RT-PCR presented an increase in the level of Epo mRNA in Sertoli cells stimulated by follicle-stimulating hormone, while exposure of peritubular myoid cells cultures to testosterone reduced Epo mRNA expression. Due to the blood-testis barrier, basal expression of Epo suggests a not yet defined function of this hormone in testis.
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