The level of aromatase in the preoptic area of rats is transcriptionally regulated through a specific androgen-receptor mediated mechanism and can be used as a measure of central androgenic effect. Therefore, several commonly abused anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) were tested for their ability to induce aromatase activity in the preoptic area of castrated rats. In addition, we determined the relative binding affinities of these compounds for the androgen receptor, as well as their ability to bind androgen receptor in vivo following subcutaneous injections. All of the AAS compounds tested significantly stimulated POA aromatase activity above castrate levels. The compounds that produced the greatest stimulation of aromatase activity were those that bound most avidly to the androgen receptor in vitro (i.e., testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and nandrolone). In contrast, the 17alpha-alkylated compounds that were tested (stanozolol, danazol, methandrostenolone) modestly stimulated aromatase and were weak competitors for the androgen receptor. The subcutaneous injection of AAS compounds increased the concentrations of occupied nuclear androgen receptors in the brain, but the magnitude of effect was not related to their potency for inducing aromatase or their relative binding affinity for the androgen receptor suggesting that androgen receptor occupancy in POA is not correlated with the action of androgen on aromatase. The present results help explain the behavioral effects of AAS compounds in rats.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.