|Basella alba (BA) and Hibiscus macranthus (HM) are used by traditional healers in Cameroon to treat male sexual fertility problems. Previous studies showed that in vivo administration of the leaf extracts of both plants caused a significant increase in rat seminal vesicle weight and spermatozoa numbers was accompanied by a significant increase in serum testosterone. The aim of this study was to establish the effects of BA and HM extracts on Sertoli cell functions. TM4 cell line was used in this study as it exhibited properties similar to the Sertoli cells (Mather, 1982). Sertoli cell play a key role in spermatogenesis by regulating and supporting germ cell development. Therefore, any alterations in Sertoli cell physiology or structure may lead to impaired spermatogenesis, germ cell loss and male infertility. Developing germ cells in the seminiferous tubule require a constant supply of lactate and pyruvate (Jutte et al, 1981; 1982) and toxicant induced alterations in these nutrients have been shown to induce germ cell necrosis (Monsees et al., 2000). TM4 Sertoli cells were cultured in DMEM/Ham F-12 (M) for one day and exposed to 0.01, 0.1, 1, 10, 100 μg/ml of BA and HM extracts, respectively, for four further days. The extracts were dissolved in 0.5 % DMSO in M, while 0.5 % and 2% DMSO in M were used as negative or positive controls, respectively, and 100mM ethanol as positive control where indicated. Results obtained from the Sertoli cells exposed to BA extracts, showed that the plant extract had no significant effect on the cell viability but induced a significant concentration-dependent increase in lactate (19-67%) and pyruvate levels (39-102%) and a concentration-dependent decrease in the protein content (9-42%). The H&E histological study confirmed that the BA extract had no cytotoxic effect, as there were no changes in the morphology of the cell. Likewise, apoptotic study using DAPI showed no alteration in the nucleus when compared to the negative control. The HM plant extract significantly enhanced mitochondrial dehydrogenase activity (7fold) in the Sertoli cells but caused only slight alterations in the lactate and pyruvate levels. There was no effect seen in the protein content of the Sertoli cells. H&E and DAPI staining revealed that there were neither changes in the morphology of the cells nor any alteration regarding the mitotic and apoptotic indices. Thus, the HM extract did not have a cytotoxic effect on the cells. This study demonstrated that the Basella alba methanol extract may enhance spermatogenesis as it stimulated the source of energy required for the development of germ cells without exerting a cytotoxic effect. The Hibiscus macranthus extract stimulated mitochondrial dehydrogenase activities and may thus trigger changes in Sertoli cell physiology. In summary, both plant extracts enhanced certain Sertoli cell
functions and thus might explain the positive in vivo effects of the combined plant extracts on rat spermatogenesis observed by Moundipa et al. (1999).