2017 年 66 巻 1 号 p. 29-39
We previously showed that prepubertal chronic caffeine exposure adversely affected the development of the testes in male rats. Here we investigated dose- and time-related effects of caffeine consumption on the testis throughout sexual maturation in prepubertal rats. A total of 80 male SD rats were randomly divided into four groups: controls and rats fed 20, 60, or 120 mg caffeine/kg/day, respectively, via gavage for 10, 20, 30, or 40 days. Preputial separation was monitored daily before the rats were sacrificed. Terminal blood samples were collected for hormone assay, and testes were grossly evaluated and weighed. One testis was processed for histological analysis, and the other was collected to isolate Leydig cells. Caffeine exposure significantly increased the relative weight of the testis in a dose-related manner after 30 days of exposure, whereas the absolute testis weight tended to decrease at the 120 mg dose of caffeine. The mean diameter of the seminiferous tubules and height of the germinal epithelium significantly decreased in the caffeine-fed groups after 40 days of caffeine exposure, which was accompanied by a reduced BrdU incorporation rate in germ cells. In addition, caffeine intake significantly reduced in vivo and ex vivo testosterone production in a dose-related manner. Our results demonstrate that caffeine exposure during sexual maturation alter the testicular microarchitecture and also slow germ cell proliferation even at the 20 mg dose level. Furthermore, caffeine may act directly on Leydig cells and interfere with testosterone production in a dose-related manner, consequently delaying onset of sexual maturation.