Using electron microscopy, in the human breast cancer cell line T47D, the synthetic progestin R5020, and 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone were shown to increase significantly the number of lipid droplets per cell section compared to control cells or estradiol- and dexamethasone-treated cells. Lipid accumulation, as measured by Oil Red O dying and by [2-14C]acetate incorporation, was observed at concentrations as low as 10 pM R5020 and 1 nM 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone, and was always more abundant after progestin treatment. The progestin antagonist RU486 inhibited, in a dose-dependent manner, lipid accumulation initiated by the two hormones, whereas the androgen antagonist flutamide inhibited only the effect initiated by 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone. Cytoplasmic lipid droplets accumulation was not observed in the BT20 breast cancer cell line, which contains neither progesterone nor androgen receptors. These results indicate that progestins and androgens increase lipid accumulation by interacting with their own receptor. Chromatographic analysis of [2-14C]acetate labeled lipids showed that R5020 and 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone enhanced the accumulation of cellular triglycerides at least in part by increasing their synthesis and decreased the quantity of lipids released into the medium. To conclude, we have shown that progestins and androgens, via their own receptor, can induce the same triglyceride accumulation in T47D cells. This effect follows fatty acid synthetase induction and precedes cell growth inhibition, two responses also triggered by progestin and androgen in these cells.