Activation of the androgen receptor by intratumoral bioconversion of androstanediol to dihydrotestosterone in prostate cancer

Cancer Res. 2011 Feb 15;71(4):1486-96. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-1343. Epub 2011 Feb 8.


The androgen receptor (AR) mediates the growth of benign and malignant prostate in response to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). In patients undergoing androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer, AR drives prostate cancer growth despite low circulating levels of testicular androgen and normal levels of adrenal androgen. In this report, we demonstrate the extent of AR transactivation in the presence of 5α-androstane-3α,17β-diol (androstanediol) in prostate-derived cell lines parallels the bioconversion of androstanediol to DHT. AR transactivation in the presence of androstanediol in prostate cancer cell lines correlated mainly with mRNA and protein levels of 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 6 (17β-HSD6), one of several enzymes required for the interconversion of androstanediol to DHT and the inactive metabolite androsterone. Levels of retinol dehydrogenase 5, and dehydrogenase/reductase short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase family member 9, which also convert androstanediol to DHT, were lower than 17β-HSD6 in prostate-derived cell lines and higher in the castration-recurrent human prostate cancer xenograft. Measurements of tissue androstanediol using mass spectrometry demonstrated androstanediol metabolism to DHT and androsterone. Administration of androstanediol dipropionate to castration-recurrent CWR22R tumor-bearing athymic castrated male mice produced a 28-fold increase in intratumoral DHT levels. AR transactivation in prostate cancer cells in the presence of androstanediol resulted from the cell-specific conversion of androstanediol to DHT, and androstanediol increased LAPC-4 cell growth. The ability to convert androstanediol to DHT provides a mechanism for optimal utilization of androgen precursors and catabolites for DHT synthesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / pharmacology
  • Androstane-3,17-diol / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Dihydrotestosterone / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Androgens
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Androstane-3,17-diol