Excessive unilateral proliferation of spermatogonia in a patient with non-obstructive azoospermia - Adverse effect of clomiphene citrate pre-treatment?

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Abstract

Background: Clomiphene citrate has been proposed as pre-treatment for infertile men with non-obstructive, testicular azoospermia (NOA) before surgery for testicular sperm extraction (TESE), especially when serum testosterone is low. Case presentation: Here, we report on a 33-year old azoospermic patient with a previous history of repeated "fresh"TESE and clomiphene citrate therapy (50 mg/day over 6 months) before undergoing microscopically assisted, bilateral testicular biopsy. Comprehensive histological and immunohistochemical work-up revealed a heterogeneous spermatogenic arrest at the level of spermatogonia or primary spermatocytes, with focally preserved spermatogenesis up to elongated spermatids in the right testis. In the left testis, the majority of tubules (> 70%) showed no tubular lumen or regular seminiferous epithelium but a great number of spermatogonia-like cells. These cells proved to be normally differentiated spermatogonia (positive for melanoma associated antigen 4 (MAGEA4), negative for placental alkaline phosphatase (PlAP)) with increased proliferative activity (positive for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA)) and a slightly higher rate of apoptotic cells. When compared to a tissue control with normal spermatogenesis, expression of sex hormone receptors androgen receptor (AR), estrogen receptor (ER) alpha, and G-protein coupled estrogen receptor 1 (GPER1) was not altered in patient samples. Sertoli cells appeared to be mature (positive for vimentin, negative for cytokeratin 18), whereas the expression of zona occludens protein 1 (ZO-1), claudin 11, and connexin 43 was absent or dislocated in the tubules with abundance of spermatogonia. Conclusion: This result suggests that formation of the blood-testis barrier is disturbed in affected tubules. To our knowledge this is the first observation of excessive, non-malignant proliferation of spermatogonia in a NOA patient. Although underlying molecular mechanisms remain to be elucidated, we hypothesize that the unusual pathology was triggered by the high-dose clomiphene citrate treatment preceding testicular biopsy.

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Fietz, D., Pilatz, A., Diemer, T., Wagenlehner, F., Bergmann, M., & Schuppe, H. C. (2020). Excessive unilateral proliferation of spermatogonia in a patient with non-obstructive azoospermia - Adverse effect of clomiphene citrate pre-treatment? Basic and Clinical Andrology, 30(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12610-020-00111-7

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