Toxic Impact of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids in Primary Rat Cortical Cell Cultures.


The Beijer Laboratory, Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Division of Biological Research on Drug Dependence, SE-751 24, Uppsala University, Sweden. Electronic address: [Email]


The use of anabolic androgenic steroids (AASs) among non-athletes is a public health-problem, as abusers underestimate the negative effects associated with these drugs. The present study investigated the toxic effects of testosterone, nandrolone, stanozolol, and trenbolone, and aimed to understand how AAS abuse affects the brain. Mixed cortical cultures from embryonic rats were grown in vitro for 7 days and thereafter treated with increasing concentrations of AASs for 24 h (single-dose) or 3 days (repeated exposure). Cells were co-treated with the androgen-receptor (AR) antagonist flutamide, to determine whether the potential adverse effects observed were mediated by the AR. Cellular toxicity was determined by measuring mitochondrial activity, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release, and caspase-3/7 activity. Nandrolone, unlike the other AASs studied, indicated an effect on mitochondrial activity after 24 h. Furthermore, single-dose exposure with testosterone, nandrolone and trenbolone increased LDH release, while no effect was detected with stanozolol. However, all of the four steroids negatively affected mitochondrial function and resulted in LDH release after repeated exposure. Testosterone, nandrolone, and trenbolone caused their toxic effects by induction of apoptosis, unlike stanozolol that seemed to induce necrosis. Flutamide almost completely prevented AAS-induced toxicity by maintaining mitochondrial function, cellular integrity, and inhibition of apoptosis. Overall, we found that supra-physiological concentrations of AASs induce cell death in mixed primary cortical cultures, but to different extents, and possibly through various mechanisms. The data presented herein suggest that the molecular interactions of the AASs with the AR are primarily responsible for the toxic outcomes observed.


androgen-receptor,cell death,flutamide,membrane integrity,mitochondrial function,