Palmitic acid targets human testicular peritubular cells and causes a pro-inflammatory response

Artur Mayerhofer, Kim Gwendolyn Dietrich, Henryk F. Urbanski, Frank Michael Köhn, Ulrich Pickl, Matthias Trottmann, Paul Kievit, Harald Welter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Palmitic acid (PA) is a major fatty acid, derived from diet and endogenous production, which is being linked to inflammation. While such actions of PA at the level of the testis remain difficult to examine, we reasoned that studies in human testicular cells may be instructive. Human testicular peritubular cells (HTPCs) can be isolated from men and cultured. They have contractile properties but also produce Interleukin 6 (IL6), express the inflammasome member NLRP3, and via glia cell line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), they contribute to the spermatogonial stem cell niche. We found that PA at 100 µM significantly increased the levels of IL6, while NLRP3 or the related Interleukin 1 beta (IL1beta) were not affected. The contractility marker calponin (CNN1) and the growth factor GDNF were likewise not affected. ELISA studies confirmed the stimulatory PA actions on IL6. Hence, PA derived from diet and/or endogenous sources may be able to foster a pro-inflammatory milieu in the testis. A possible link of these results to diet and high fat intake and obesity is indicated by the about 12-fold elevated testicular levels of IL6 in testes of obese rhesus monkeys (n = 3), fed with a Western Style diet. They had elevated 2–5-fold increased body fat and increased circulating triglyceride levels. Further consequences of PA and obesity for testicular functions remain to be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2655
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • High-fat diet
  • Human male fertility
  • Inflammation
  • Obesity
  • Palmitic acid
  • Testis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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