Testosterone and the testosterone precursors pregnenolone, progesterone, 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone, 17 alpha-hydroxypregnenolone, androstenedione, androstenediol and dehydroepiandrosterone were measured in the spermatic vein plasma and in the testicular tissue of young and old men. Testosterone and its precursors decreased in the testicular tissue of old men. However, progesterone and 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone increased in relation to testosterone in the testicular tissue and in the spermatic vein of old men. It is assumed that these age-dependent changes are caused by an impaired oxygen supply of the ageing testes. This hypothesis is supported by the observation that the same changes in steroid pattern seen in old age can be observed under reduced oxygen supply in in vitro incubation experiments with testicular tissue.