Androgens and bone

Minerva Endocrinol. 2012 Dec;37(4):305-14.


Testosterone is the major gonadal sex steroid produced by the testes in men. Androgens induce male sexual differentiation before birth and sexual maturation during puberty; in adult men, they maintain the function of the male genital system, including spermatogenesis. Testosterone is also produced in smaller amounts by the ovaries in women. The adrenal glands produce the weaker androgens dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, and androstenedione. Because testosterone can be metabolized to estradiol by the aromatase enzyme, there has been controversy as to which gonadal sex steroid has the greater skeletal effect. In this respect, there is increasing evidence that at least part of the effects of androgens in men can be explained by their aromatization into estrogens. The current evidence suggests that estradiol plays a greater role in maintenance of skeletal health than testosterone, but that androgens also have direct beneficial effects on bone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism
  • Androgen-Insensitivity Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Aromatase / physiology
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Development
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Estradiol / physiology
  • Estradiol / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Gonads / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Menopause
  • Orchiectomy
  • Osteoblasts / cytology
  • Osteoclasts / cytology
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use


  • Androgens
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Aromatase