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BACKGROUND: Systemic administration of the nonaromatizable androgen oxandrolone stimulates growth in girls with Turner syndrome and boys with a constitutional delay of growth and puberty. It is unknown if oxandrolone acts locally at the growth plate level to stimulate longitudinal bone growth. METHODS: Metatarsal bones from female and male rat fetuses (day E20) were cultured for 14 days in the presence of oxandrolone, testosterone or the androgen receptor (AR) antagonist flutamide with/without insulin-like growth-factor-I (IGF-I) or charcoal-treated serum. RESULTS: The AR was found to be expressed in both male and female fetal rat metatarsal bones. Neither oxandrolone nor testosterone had any effect on metatarsal bone growth when tested at a wide concentration range (1 nM to 10 microM), not even in the presence of IGF-I (100 ng/ml) or charcoal-treated serum (10%). Bone growth was also unaffected when the AR was blocked by flutamide. Control experiments confirmed that metatarsal bone growth was significantly stimulated by IGF-I (p < 0.001). CONCLUSION: Modulation of AR activity in the fetal rat growth plate does not affect linear bone growth. Extrapolating from these in vitro data, it could be speculated that oxandrolone stimulates longitudinal bone growth in treated children by acting indirectly rather than directly through AR activation in growth plate chondrocytes.

Original publication




Journal article


Horm Res

Publication Date





219 - 227


Animals, Bone Development, Female, Fetus, Flutamide, Male, Metatarsal Bones, Organ Culture Techniques, Oxandrolone, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Receptors, Androgen, Testosterone