Skeletal Site-Dependent Expression of the Androgen Receptor in Human Osteoblastic Cell Populations
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There are obvious sexual differences in adult skeletal morphology which for the most part are related to differences in size. Higher androgen serum levels in males exert potent osteoanabolic effects and therefore may contribute to this sexual dimorphism of the skeleton. The presence of androgen receptors (AR) in bone cells is a prerequisite for a direct osteoanabolic action of androgens. To investigate the possibility that, in addition to gender-related differences in androgen serum levels, there are also gender-related differences in the osteoblastic expression pattern of the androgen receptor, we examined AR mRNA expression, androgen binding sites, and mitogenic responses to the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in human osteoblastic cell (HOC) populations. HOCs were isolated from bone biopsy specimens derived from different skeletal sites of healthy adult males and females (2–69 years old). We found that male and female HOCs of all examined ages express similar AR mRNA levels and similar numbers of androgen binding sites. Using whole-cell-binding assays, we observed 3129–8417 androgen binding sites per femoral HOC with apparent KDs of 1.45–2.83 nM depending on the age of the investigated HOC population. Mandibular and cortical HOC of both sexes expressed higher AR mRNA levels, significantly more androgen binding sites per cell, and exhibited significantly greater mitogenic responses to DHT than iliac crest-derived and trabecular HOC of the same skeletal system and the same skeletal-site, respectively. In early adulthood, HOCs of both sexes appear to express somewhat higher AR mRNA levels and to possess more androgen binding sites than prepubertal and senescent HOC. Because sex hormone serum levels rise in puberty, we investigated the regulation of the AR mRNA expression by various steroids. We found that dexamethasone (dexa) and in some experiments also 17β-estradiol (E2) and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (D3) increased AR mRNA levels and androgen binding in HOC cultures. A pretreatment with dexa, E2, and D3 significantly increased the mitogenic response of HOCs to DHT. We conclude that (1) higher androgen serum levels in males together with a higher AR expression at certain skeletal sites may contribute to the development of sex-related differences in skeletal morphology, (2) glucocorticoids induce AR gene expression in HOC cultures, and (3) glucocorticoids, E2, and D3 enhance the mitogenic action of DHT.
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