Sexual dimorphism of growth plate prehypertrophic and hypertrophic chondrocytes in response to testosterone requires metabolism to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by steroid 5-alpha reductase type 1

P. Raz, E. Nasatzky, Barbara D. Boyan, A. Ornoy, Z. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


Rat costochondral growth plate chondrocytes exhibit sex-specific and cell maturation dependent responses to testosterone. Only male cells respond to testosterone, although testosterone receptors are present in both male and female cells, suggesting other mechanisms are involved. We examined the hypothesis that the sex-specific response of rat costochondral cartilage cells to testosterone requires further metabolism of the hormone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Resting zone (RC) and growth zone (GC, prehypertrophic and upper hypertrophic zones) chondrocytes from male and female Sabra strain rats exhibited sex-specific responses to testosterone and DHT: only male cells were responsive. Testosterone and DHT treatment for 24 h caused a comparable dose-dependent increase in [3H]-thymidine incorporation in quiescent preconfluent cultures of male GC cells, and a comparable increase in alkaline phosphatase specific activity in confluent cultures. RC cells responded in a differential manner to testosterone and DHT. Testosterone decreased DNA synthesis in male RC cells but DHT had no effect and alkaline phosphatase specific activity of male RC cells was unaffected by either hormone. Inhibition of steroid 5α-reductase activity with finasteride (1, 5, or 10 μg/ml), reduced the response of male GC cells to testosterone in a dose-dependent manner, indicating that metabolism to DHT was required. RT-PCR showed that both male and female cells expressed mRNAs for steroid 5α-reductase type 1 but lacked mRNAs for the type 2 form of the enzyme. Male cells also exhibited 5α-reductase activity but activity of this enzyme was undetectable in female cells. These observations show that sex-specific responses of rat growth zone chondrocytes to testosterone requires the further metabolism of the hormone to DHT and that the effect of DHT in the male growth plate is maturation-state dependent. Failure of female chondrocytes to respond to testosterone may reflect differences in testosterone metabolism, since these cells possess greater ability to aromatize the hormone to estradiol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-119
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2005



  • Chondrocytes
  • Differentiation
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Growth plate
  • Sex-dependence
  • Steroid 5-alpha reductase
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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