Chronic administration of anabolic steroids disrupts pubertal onset and estrous cyclicity in rats

Biol Reprod. 2003 Feb;68(2):465-71. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.102.008078.


Use of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs) is becoming increasingly popular among adolescent girls, yet the effects of AASs on female physiology and development are not well understood. The present study compared the effects of chronic exposure to three individual AASs, stanozolol (0.05-5 mg/kg), 17alpha-methyltestosterone (0.5-5 mg/kg), and methandrostenolone (0.5-5 mg/kg) on the onset of puberty and estrous cyclicity in the rat. Female rats received daily injections of AASs for 30 days (Postnatal Day [PN] 21-51). Rats receiving the highest dose of each of the AASs (5 mg/kg) displayed vaginal opening at a younger age than rats receiving the oil vehicle. The day of first vaginal estrus was delayed in rats receiving stanozolol (5 mg/kg) or 17alpha-methyltestosterone (0.5-5 mg/kg) but not in rats receiving methandrostenolone. At the highest dose (5 mg/kg), each of the AASs reduced the incidence of regular estrous cyclicity during the treatment period. Concurrent administration (on PN21-51) of the androgen receptor antagonist, flutamide (10 mg/kg, twice daily), reversed the effects of 17alpha-methyltestosterone (5 mg/kg) on vaginal opening. Flutamide administration also eliminated the effects of stanozolol (5 mg/kg) and 17alpha-methyltestosterone (5 mg/kg) on the day of first vaginal estrus. In contrast, rats receiving flutamide and methandrostenolone (5 mg/kg) exhibited first vaginal estrus earlier than controls. The present results indicate that chronic exposure to AASs during development has deleterious effects on the female neuroendocrine axis and that these effects appear be mediated via multiple mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anabolic Agents / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Androgen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Androgen Receptor Antagonists
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Combinations
  • Estrus / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Flutamide / pharmacology
  • Methandrostenolone / pharmacology
  • Methyltestosterone / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Methyltestosterone / pharmacology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology
  • Sexual Maturation / drug effects*
  • Stanozolol / administration & dosage*
  • Stanozolol / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Time Factors
  • Vagina / drug effects
  • Vagina / physiology


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Androgen Receptor Antagonists
  • Drug Combinations
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Stanozolol
  • Flutamide
  • Methandrostenolone
  • Methyltestosterone