Bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide and reactive oxygen species inhibit Leydig cell steroidogenesis via perturbation of mitochondria

John A. Allen, Thorsten Diemer, Paul Janus, Karen Held Hales, Dale B. Hales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Chronic inflammatory disease and acute infection are well known to inhibit gonadal steroidogenesis. Previous studies have demonstrated that immune activation in response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) results in reductions in serum testosterone, and this is a direct effect on the Leydig cell. We hypothesize that during the early onset of LPS endotoxemia in vivo, testicular macrophages produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) leading to perturbation of Leydig cell mitochondria and an inhibition in steroidogenesis. To investigate the mechanism of LPS inhibition of Leydig cell steroidogenesis, alterations in mitochondria and markers of oxidative stress were assessed in vivo and in Leydig cell primary culture. After a single injection of mice with LPS, serum testosterone was significantly decreased within 2 h. LPS injection of mice resulted in significant reductions in steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydogenase-Δ4- Δ5 isomerase (3β-HSD) proteins. LPS significantly increased lipid peroxidation of Leydig cell membranes, indicating that LPS results in oxidative damage in vivo. Mitochondria in Leydig cells isolated from LPS-injected mice were disrupted and showed a marked reduction in the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm). Similar to the effects of LPS, treatment of Leydig cells with hydrogen peroxide acutely inhibited steroidogenesis, reduced StAR and 3β-HSD protein levels, and disrupted ΔΨm. These results suggest that LPS acutely inhibits Leydig cell function by ROS-mediated disruption of Leydig cell mitochondria. Taken together, these results demonstrate the necessity of having respiring mitochondria with an intact ΔΨm to facilitate StAR function and Leydig cell steroidogenesis. The acute effects of LPS demonstrate how sensitive Leydig cell mitochondrial steroidogenesis is to inflammation-induced oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-275
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • LPS
  • Leydig cell
  • Mitochondrial electrochemical membrane potential
  • Reactive oxygen
  • StAR, 3β-HSD
  • Steroidogenesis
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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