Androgens and skeletal muscle: cellular and molecular action mechanisms underlying the anabolic actions

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 May;69(10):1651-67. doi: 10.1007/s00018-011-0883-3. Epub 2011 Nov 19.


Androgens increase both the size and strength of skeletal muscle via diverse mechanisms. The aim of this review is to discuss the different cellular targets of androgens in skeletal muscle as well as the respective androgen actions in these cells leading to changes in proliferation, myogenic differentiation, and protein metabolism. Androgens bind and activate a specific nuclear receptor which will directly affect the transcription of target genes. These genes encode muscle-specific transcription factors, enzymes, structural proteins, as well as microRNAs. In addition, anabolic action of androgens is partly established through crosstalk with other signaling molecules such as Akt, myostatin, IGF-I, and Notch. Finally, androgens may also exert non-genomic effects in muscle by increasing Ca(2+) uptake and modulating kinase activities. In conclusion, the anabolic effect of androgens on skeletal muscle is not only explained by activation of the myocyte androgen receptor but is also the combined result of many genomic and non-genomic actions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology
  • Androgens / pharmacology
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens
  • Receptors, Androgen