• Varicocele;
  • autoimmunity;
  • sperm antibodies

ABSTRACT: The presence of a varicocele in adult men has been correlated with infertility. This study documents the effect of an experimentally induced unilateral varicocele in 21-day-old juvenile prepubertal and 51-day-old adult rats (n=10 per group) on subsequent adult testicular function. Varicoceles were induced by partial occlusion of the spermatic vein. There were ten sham-operated and five nonoperated control rats in each age group. The rats were sacrificed 1 month after surgery. Intrascrotal temperatures were elevated in both groups with varicoceles. Histologically, the ipsilateral testes of rats in both age groups demonstrated a decrease in the numbers of functioning seminiferous tubules and germ cells, but the decrease was significantly greater in the juveniles than in the adult rats. No changes were seen in the contralateral testes. Significant titers of cytotoxic sperm antibodies were present in all animals with varicoceles, which is in contrast to controls. The juveniles had significantly lower antibody titers (mean log ± SEM; 3.2 ± 0.09 vs. 8.5 ± 1.1, P < 0.001) than the adults. The induction of a unilateral varicocele damaged spermatogenesis and testicular function to a greater extent in juveniles than in adult rats. This damage may be immune complex-mediated.