Leydig cell hypoplasia
|Leydig cell hypoplasia (or aplasia)|
|Classification and external resources|
Leydig cell hypoplasia (or aplasia) (LCH), also known as Leydig cell agenesis, is a rare autosomal recessive genetic and endocrine syndrome affecting an estimated 1 in 1,000,000 biological males. It is characterized by an inability of the body to respond to luteinizing hormone (LH), a gonadotropin which is normally responsible for signaling Leydig cells of the testicles to produce testosterone and other androgen sex hormones. The condition manifests itself as pseudohermaphroditism (partially or fully underdeveloped genitalia), hypergonadotropic hypogonadism (decreased or lack of production of sex steroids by the gonads despite high circulating levels of gonadotropins), reduced or absent puberty (lack of development of secondary sexual characteristics, resulting in sexual infantilism if left untreated), and infertility.
Leydig cell hypoplasia does not occur in biological females as they do not have either Leydig cells or testicles. However, the cause of the condition in males, luteinizing hormone insensitivity, does affect females, and because LH plays a role in the female reproductive system, it can result in primary amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea (absent or reduced menstruation), infertility due to anovulation, and ovarian cysts.
A related condition is follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) insensitivity, which presents with similar symptoms to those of Leydig cell hypoplasia but with the symptoms in the respective sexes reversed (i.e., hypogonadism and sexual infantilism in females and merely problems with fertility in males). Despite their similar causes, FSH insensitivity is considerably less common in comparison to LH insensitivity.
Leydig cell hypoplasia is caused by genetic mutations in LHCGR, a gene which encodes the LH/hCG receptor. LH normally acts through the LH/hCG receptor to stimulate the growth of Leydig cells in the testicles and the production of androgens such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by these cells. In Leydig cell hypoplasia however, there is a reduced capacity for the LH/hCG receptor to respond to LH. This results in hypoplasia or absence of Leydig cells, testicular atrophy, and lower than normal androgen levels. In the most severe form of the condition in which there is a complete lack of response of the Leydig cells to LH, androgen production by the testicles is virtually negligible and secondary sexual characteristics entirely fail to develop at puberty.
The symptoms of Leydig cell hypoplasia include pseudohermaphroditism (i.e., feminized, ambiguous, or relatively mildly underdeveloped (e.g., micropenis, severe hypospadias, and/or cryptorchidism (undescended testes)) external genitalia), a female gender identity or gender variance, hypergonadotropic hypogonadism (hypogonadism despite high levels of gonadotropins), delayed, impaired, or fully absent puberty with an associated reduction in or complete lack of development of secondary sexual characteristics (sexual infantilism), impaired fertility or complete sterility, tall stature (due to delayed epiphyseal closure), eunuchoid skeletal proportions, delayed or absent bone maturation, and osteoporosis.
Patients with Leydig cell hypoplasia may be treated with hormone replacement therapy (i.e., with androgens), which will result in normal sexual development and the resolution of most symptoms. In the case of 46,XY (biologically male) individuals who are phenotypically female and/or identify as the female gender, estrogens should be given instead. Surgical correction of the genitals in 46,XY males may be required, and, if necessary, an orchidopexy (relocation of the undescended testes to the scrotum) may be performed as well.
- Disorders of sex development
- Intersexuality, pseudohermaphroditism, and ambiguous genitalia
- Hypogonadism and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism
- Familial male-limited precocious puberty (or LH oversensitivity)
- Follicle-stimulating hormone insensitivity
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone insensitivity
- Inborn errors of steroid metabolism
- Isolated 17,20-lyase deficiency
- Combined 17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase deficiency
- 17β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase III deficiency
- Androgen insensitivity syndrome
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