Although some anti-estrogens have been reported to inhibit the proliferation of prostate cancer cells, few studies on the mechanism by which they suppress the growth of prostate cancer have been reported. We investigated, for the first time, whether anti-estrogens modulate the transactivation activity of the androgen receptor (AR) in prostate cancer cells. In DU-145 cells transfected with AR, the transactivation activity of AR was inhibited by tamoxifen and toremifene, even in the presence of 10 nM of DHT. On the other hand, in LNCaP cells having an endogenous AR mutation at codon 877, the activity of AR was suppressed by faslodex in the presence of 10 nM DHT, whereas it was not inhibited by tamoxifen nor toremifene. In PC-3 cells, both the cell growth and the AR activity were remarkably inhibited by tamoxifen at 50 microM. Faslodex and toremifene inhibited AR activity to some extent, but they seemed to function as agonists at higher concentrations. In PC-3 cells, the inhibition of cell growth by flutamide, faslodex and toremifene was much less than their suppression of AR activity. We also demonstrated that a synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol and progesterone-related drugs such as chlormadinone acetate and allylestrenol dose-dependently inhibited the activity of AR in DU-145 and PC-3 cells. These results highlight the anti-androgenic aspect of anti-estrogens and estrogens in regard to the AR-mediated transcription of the relevant genes in prostate cancer.