Unexpected contribution of cytochrome P450 enzymes CYP11B2 and CYP21, as well as CYP3A4 in xenobiotic androgen elimination - insights from metandienone metabolism

Toxicol Lett. 2012 Sep 18;213(3):381-91. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2012.07.020. Epub 2012 Jul 31.


The metabolism of a variety of anabolic steroids frequently misused for doping purposes has been investigated in the last years. This research mainly focused on main and long-term metabolites suitable for detection, but detailed clearance mechanisms have rarely been elucidated. Recent studies on metandienone focused on the identification of 17β-hydroxymethyl-17α-methyl-18-norandrosta-1,4,13-trien-3-one (20βOH-NorMD) as long-term metabolite, however, the metabolic pathway of its generation remained unclear. Metandienone and its Wagner-Meerwein rearrangement product 17,17-dimethyl-18-norandrosta-1,4,13-trien-3-one (NorMD) were hydroxylated by different human cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYPs). Some of their hydroxylation products were chemically synthesized and characterized by mass spectrometry to allow for their trace detection in urine samples. Following oral administration of metandienone or NorMD in one human volunteer each the post administration urines were checked for the presence of those hydroxylated metabolites using GC-MS/MS analysis. The human mitochondrial steroid hydroxylating enzymes CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 were capable to metabolize metandienone leading to the formation of 11β-hydroxymetandienone and 18-hydroxymetandienone. Following Wagner-Meerwein rearrangement, the resulting products could be assigned to 20βOH-NorMD and 11βOH-NorMD. The contribution of CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 in human metabolism of metandienone was confirmed by analysis of post-administration samples of metandienone and NorMD. Combined with the results from a previous study, enzymatic pathways were identified that involve CYP21 and CYP3A4 in the hydroxylation of NorMD, while CYP21, CYP3A4 and CYP11B2 take part in 20βOH-NorMD generation from MD. The current study represents a valuable contribution to the elucidation of clearance mechanisms of anabolic steroids and also indicates that mainly non-liver CYPs seem to be involved in these processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Anabolic Agents / urine
  • Biotransformation
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP11B2 / metabolism*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A / metabolism*
  • Doping in Sports
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Male
  • Methandrostenolone / administration & dosage
  • Methandrostenolone / analogs & derivatives
  • Methandrostenolone / pharmacokinetics*
  • Methandrostenolone / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / administration & dosage
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / pharmacokinetics*
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / urine
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Steroid 21-Hydroxylase / metabolism*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Methandrostenolone
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Steroid 21-Hydroxylase
  • CYP3A4 protein, human
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP11B2