We have tested the hypothesis that androstenedione (administered as 21-day, slow-release pellets) is converted to active sex steroids and reduces bone turnover in the ovariectomised rat model. We found that ovariectomy resulted in a minor but significant reduction in plasma concentrations of androstenedione and testosterone and a more significant reduction in oestrone (E1) and oestradiol (E2). This was associated with the expected substantial loss of metaphyseal cancellous bone volume. Androstenedione (1.5-100 mg) pellets increased the plasma concentrations of androstenedione and testosterone above those in the ovariectomised (ovx) rats in a dose-responsive manner, whereas E2 plasma concentrations were increased to a minor but significant degree above those in the ovx animals. Androstenedione reduced loss of cancellous bone volume in a dose-dependent fashion by reducing bone turnover. The 1.5, 5 and 100 mg androstenedione-induced effect on bone turnover was not abrogated by simultaneous treatment with Arimidex, an aromatase inhibitor. This implies that the skeletal-protective effect of androstenedione was not oestrogen-mediated.
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