Erythropoietin stimulates testosterone production in man

C. Foresta, R. Mioni, P. Bordon, D. Miotto, G. Montini, A. Varotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human recombinant erythropoietin (rHuEPO) treatment improves sexual function in end-stage renal failure patients with a still-debated mechanism. Experimental data suggested that rHuEPO was able to stimulate rat Leydig steroidogenesis; therefore, it has been suggested that rHuEPO may induce its effects in humans by acting on gonadal steroid production. Thirteen young adult males (age range, 16-28 yr) catheterized at peripheral and left internal spermatic venous levels during a contrast study for varicocele, were studied. In five subjects, rHuEPO (60 IU/kg, up to a maximum of 4000 IU total) was injected over 1 min in the cubital vein. Similarly, in other five patients, 50 μgs GnRH were infused. In three subjects, 2 mL saline were injected, as controls. Plasma LH, FSH, and testosterone (T) levels were then determined at -15, 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 min simultaneously in peripheral and spermatic venous blood. rHuEPO infusion did not have any effect on plasma LH and FSH levels in peripheral or spermatic veins. Similarly, rHuEPO infusion did not affect peripheral T concentration, but increased (approximately 400% vs. controls; P < 0.05) spermatic T levels. GnRH infusion induced an increase in plasma LH and FSH levels in both peripheral and spermatic veins. After GnRH infusion, an increase of approximately 12-fold (P = 0.05-0.001) in T was observed only at the spermatic venous level, without any peripheral T variation. These findings show that rHuEPO was able to influence testicular steroidogenesis by stimulating T production in man, whereas the absence of any effect on gonadotropin secretion suggests that rHuEPO might act directly on human Leydig cell function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)753-756
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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