Flutamide and cyproterone acetate exert agonist effects: induction of androgen receptor-dependent neuroprotection

Endocrinology. 2007 Jun;148(6):2936-43. doi: 10.1210/en.2006-1469. Epub 2007 Mar 8.


Androgens can exert profound effects on the organization, development, and function of the nervous system through activation of androgen receptors (ARs). Nonsteroidal and steroidal antiandrogens antagonize AR-mediated, classic genomic actions of androgens. However, emerging studies in nonneuronal cells indicate that antiandrogens can act as partial agonists for the AR. Here we investigated the effects of the antiandrogens flutamide and cyproterone acetate on neuroprotection induced by dihydrotestosterone (DHT). We observed that, although flutamide and cyproterone acetate blocked androgen-induced gene expression, they failed to inhibit DHT protection against apoptotic insults in cultured hippocampal neurons. Interestingly, flutamide and cyproterone acetate alone, like DHT, significantly reduced apoptosis. Furthermore, the protective actions of flutamide and cyproterone acetate were observed specifically in AR-expressing cell lines, suggesting a role for AR in the agonist effects of antiandrogens. Our results indicate that, in contrast to the classic antiandrogen properties of flutamide and cyproterone acetate, these AR modulators display agonist activities at the level of neuroprotection. These findings provide new insight into the agonist vs. antagonist properties of antiandrogens, information that will be crucial to understanding the neural implications of clinically used AR-modulating drugs.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Androgen Receptor Antagonists
  • Androgens*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cyproterone Acetate / pharmacology*
  • Flutamide / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • PC12 Cells
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology*


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Androgen Receptor Antagonists
  • Androgens
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Cyproterone Acetate
  • Flutamide