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Steroids. 2004 May;69(5):357-66.

Oxandrolone blocks glucocorticoid signaling in an androgen receptor-dependent manner.

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Rehabilitation and Research Development Center of Excellence for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury, VA Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA.


The anabolic steroid oxandrolone is increasingly used to preserve or restore muscle mass in those with HIV infection or serious burns. These effects are mediated, in part, by the androgen receptor (AR). Anti-glucocorticoid effects have also been reported for some anabolic steroids, and the goal of our studies was to determine whether oxandrolone had a similar mechanism of action. Studies with in vitro translated glucocorticoid receptor (GR), however, showed no inhibition of cortisol binding by oxandrolone. Conversely, experiments in cell culture systems demonstrated significant antagonism of cortisol-induced transcriptional activation by oxandrolone in cells expressing both the AR and GR. Inhibition was not overcome by increased cortisol concentration, and no inhibition by oxandrolone was observed in cells expressing GR alone, confirming that non-competitive mechanisms were involved. AR-dependent repression of transcriptional activation by oxandrolone was also observed with the synthetic glucocorticoids dexamethasone and methylprednisolone. Furthermore, the AR antagonists 2-hydroxyflutamide and DDE also repressed GR transactivation in an AR-dependent manner. A mutant AR lacking a functional nuclear localization signal (AR(4RKM)) was active in oxandrolone-mediated repression of GR even though oxandrolone-bound AR(4RKM) failed to enter the nucleus and did not affect nuclear import of GR. These data indicate a novel action of oxandrolone to suppress glucocorticoid action via crosstalk between AR and GR.

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