Scrotal hyperthermia has been known as a cause of male infertility but the exact mechanism leading to impaired spermatogenesis is unknown. This work was aimed to investigate the role of scrotal hyperthermia on cell proliferation and apoptosis in testes. The rats were randomly allotted into one of the four experimental groups: A (control), B (1 day after scrotal hyperthermia), C (14 days after scrotal hyperthermia), and D (35 days after scrotal hyperthermia); each group comprised 7 animals. Scrotal hyperthermia was carried out in a thermostatically controlled water bath at 43 degrees C for 30 min once daily for 6 consecutive days. Control rats were treated in the same way, except the testes were immersed in a water bath maintained at 22 degrees C. Hyperthermia-exposed rats were killed under 50 mg/kg ketamine anaesthesia and tissue samples were obtained for biochemical and histopathological investigations. Hyperthermia treatment significantly decreased the testicular antioxidant system, including decreases in the glutathione level, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase activities. Moreover, exposure to hyperthermia resulted in lipid peroxidation increase in testes. Our data indicate a significant reduction in the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen and an enhancement in the activity of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labelling after scrotal hyperthermia. In scrotal hyperthermia, the mitochondrial degeneration, dilatation of smooth endoplasmic reticulum, and enlarged intercellular spaces were observed in both Sertoli and spermatid cells. Scrotal hyperthermia is one of the major factors that impair spermatogenesis in testis. This heat stress is shown to be closely associated with oxidative stress, followed by apoptosis of germ cells.