Androgen effects on bone and muscle

Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr:77 Suppl 4:S34-41. doi: 10.1016/s0015-0282(02)02968-0.


Bone health and strength are dependent on the coupling of cone resorption and bone formation. This process is governed by the interaction of osteoclasts and osteoblasts plus the modulating influence of the bone mechanicosensory cells-the osteocytes. Both sex steroids-estrogen (E) and testosterone (T)- have receptors on all bone cells, with androgen dominance on osteoblasts and osteocytes. Specific receptors for the weaker androgens, such as DHEA have also been identified. The activity of the sex steroids, influenced by various enzymes found in bone, is reflective of the hormone ligand before its binding to the bone cells. As a result, T acts both directly and via its aromatization to estradiol. The activity of the androgens also varies with the bone surface; periosteal cells, for example, do not have 5alpha-reductase activity, indicating that T is the active metabolite at this clinically important site. Androgens influence bone cell function via local and systemic growth factors and cytokines. By enhancing osteoblast differentiation, androgens regulate bone matrix production, organization, and mineralization. Androgens also regulate osteoclast recruitment and activity. Endogenous androgens increase bone mineral density (BMD) in both adolescent and adult premenopausal women. Women with excess endogenous androgen-for example, those with hirsutism and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)-have increased BMD compared with normal young women. E and androgen therapy increases BMD to a greater degree than does E therapy alone. This is true for both oral combinations of esterified E and methyltestosterone and for subcutaneous T implants. Androgenic progestins have an additive effect on BMD when combined with E therapy and have the further advantage of being protective to the endometrium in E-treated women. Androgens increase muscle mass and strength. The resulting improvement in physical activity leads to the activation of bone-forming sites and the stimulation of the bone formation-modulating cells, the osteocytes. Mechanical loading, when combined with hormone therapy, results in greater osteogenic response than does either alone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology*
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Osteoblasts / metabolism
  • Osteoclasts / metabolism
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Receptors, Estrogen