Rapid membrane responses to dihydrotestosterone are sex dependent in growth plate chondrocytes

Khairat Elbaradie, Yun Wang, Barbara D. Boyan, Zvi Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Sex steroids are important regulators for longitudinal growth, bone mass accrual, and sexual dimorphism of the skeleton. 17β-Estradiol regulates proliferation and differentiation of female chondrocytes via a membrane-associated signaling pathway in addition to its estrogen receptor (ER) mediated effects. In contrast, testosterone does not elicit a similar membrane response, either in male or female cells. Whereas female rat growth plate chondrocytes convert testosterone to 17β-estradiol, male chondrocytes produce 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Previously DHT was found to mediate sex-specific effects of testosterone in male cells, but it is not known if a membrane-signaling pathway is involved. In this study, we hypothesized that DHT can induce sex-specific rapid membrane effects similar to other steroid hormones. Confluent cultures of chondrocytes isolated from resting zones of growth plates of both male and female rats were treated with 10 -10-10-7 M testosterone or DHT for 3, 9, 90 and 270 min and protein kinase C (PKC) and phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activities were measured. To examine potential signaling pathways involved in PKC activation, male chondrocytes were treated with 10-7 M DHT for 9 min in the presence or absence of the phospholipase C (PLC) inhibitor U73122, the secretory PLA2 inhibitor quinacrine or the cytosolic PLA2 inhibitor AACOCF3; the Gαi inhibitor pertussis toxin (PTX) or Gαs activator cholera toxin (CTX), and the general G-protein inhibitor GDPβS; thapsigargin, an inhibitor of a Ca-ATPase pump in the endoplasmic reticulum; verapamil and nifedipine, inhibitors of specific L type Ca2+ channels on the cell membrane; and cyproterone acetate (CPA), which is an inhibitor of the classical androgen receptor (AR); as well as the transcription inhibitor actinomycin D, or the translation inhibitor cycloheximide. DHT induced a dose-dependent increase in PKC and PLA2 activity in male cells with the highest increase at 10-7 M DHT (p < 0.05), whereas testosterone had no effect. PKC activity was augmented at 9 and 90 min, and then decreased to baseline at 270 min. Neither testosterone nor DHT affected PKC in female cells. U73122, quinacrine, and AACOCF3 inhibited DHT-induced activation of PKC. DHT treatment for 9 min had no effect in [3H]-thymidine incorporation in quiescent confluent cultures but caused a dose dependent increase in alkaline phosphatase specific activity. Inhibition of PLC reduced the response of to DHT in a dose dependent manner, indicating that PLC is involved. In conclusion, our study indicates that DHT, but not testosterone, has sex-specific rapid membrane effects in male growth plate chondrocytes involving PLC and PLA2-mediated PKC signaling pathways. Together with previous observations showing that male cells convert testosterone to DHT, these results suggest that DHT might act in the membrane through an autocrine/paracrine mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Androgen receptor
  • Growth plate chondrocytes
  • Mechanism of protein kinase C activation
  • Sex-specific rapid response to dihydrotestosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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