The reversibility of the effect of gossypol on testicular histology and fertility was studied in rats. Adult males of proven fertility were treated orally with gossypol acetic acid (15 mg/kg) for 9 or 16 weeks (groups 1 and 2, respectively). Another groups of animals (group 3) was given gossypol (15 mg/kg) for 16 weeks and killed 6 weeks after the end of treatment. Control animals (group 4) were given the vehicle only by oral intubation. In the mating studies, although only 33% of the animals in group 1 were infertile, 100% infertility was observed following 16 weeks of gossypol treatment (group 2). All animals in group 3 regained their fertility 6 weeks after cessation of drug treatment. Damage was observed to 15.7% of the seminiferous tubules after 9 weeks of drug treatment, and to 78% after 16 weeks of treatment. Extensive vacuolization, increased numbers of lipid droplets, degeneration of germ cells, loosening of the epithelium, and a significant decrease in the number of pachytene spermatocytes (stages VII-X) and spermatids (steps 7-10 at stages VII-X) were observed after gossypol treatment. There was a decrease in the diameter of only stage VIII seminiferous tubules after 9 weeks of treatment, whereas a reduction was observed in the tubules of all stages after 16 weeks of gossypol treatment. In the recovery phase, the diameter of seminiferous tubules was similar to that of controls, except for tubules at stage VIII. No change in the area of the lumen of the seminiferous tubules and lipid bodies was observed after 9 weeks of drug treatment, but a marked reduction in the area of the lumen (stages II-X) and an increase in lipid bodies (all stages) was observed after 16 weeks of gossypol treatment. Six weeks after cessation of treatment, the area of the lumen and the number of lipid bodies were comparable to values in controls. A reduction in the area of the epithelium was restricted to just a few stages (VIII-XIV) in treated animals at 9 weeks, whereas after 16 weeks the area of the epithelium was decreased in all tubules. In the recovery phase, except for tubules at stage VIII, the area of the seminiferous epithelium was comparable to that in controls.