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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Jan 19;96(2):505-10.

Androgens regulate bone resorption activity of isolated osteoclasts in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mayo Clinic and Foundation, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


For many years it has been recognized that sex steroids have profound effects on bone metabolism. The current perception is that estrogen decreases bone resorption and androgen increases bone deposition. To investigate the potential for androgens to directly modulate bone resorption, we have examined avian osteoclast and human and mouse osteoclast-like cells for androgen responsiveness. There was a dose-dependent decrease in resorption activity in response to alpha-dihydrotestosterone (alpha-DHT), beta-DHT, testosterone, or the synthetic androgen RU1881. This decrease was blocked by cotreatment with the specific androgen antagonist hydroxyflutamide. Further examination of avian osteoclasts revealed that the cells exhibited specific and saturable nuclear binding of tritiated RU1881 and that alpha-DHT stimulated the activity of the androgen response element as measured by using a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter plasmid. In addition, avian osteoclasts responded to androgen treatment with elevated production and secretion of transforming growth factor beta, a well documented response to androgen exposure in other cell systems. Treatment with either alpha-DHT or beta-DHT for 24 hours resulted in a significant dose-dependent decrease in secretion of cathepsin B and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase. This response to beta-DHT, a stereoisomer of alpha-DHT that is inactive in other androgen receptor-dependent systems, supports the hypothesis that the osteoclast androgen receptor has unusual ligand-binding properties. Taken together, these results confirm the presence of functional androgen receptors in these cells and support the conclusion that osteoclasts are able to respond directly to androgens in vitro and thus are potential androgen target cells in vivo.

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