In this study, we investigate the expression of the androgen receptor (AR) in the tibial growth plate and metaphyseal bone of male and female rats at the mRNA and protein level. Using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, AR mRNA and protein were demonstrated in proliferating and early hypertrophic chondrocytes in the growth plate of 1-, 4-, and 7-week-old male and female rats. Immunostaining for AR was observed both in the nucleus and the cytoplasm. After sexual maturation at 12 and 16 weeks of age, AR expression decreased in both genders and was confined to a small rim of prehypertrophic chondrocytes. In female rats of 40 weeks of age, this expression pattern was still visible. In most age groups there was a tendency toward an increased AR mRNA expression in male vs. female rats except in the 7-week-old animals. At the protein level, sexually maturing 7-week-old male rats demonstrated a higher staining intensity compared to their female counterparts. At this stage, AR staining in the males was mainly confined to the nucleus, whereas in females staining was predominantly found in the cytoplasm. In the tibial metaphysis, AR mRNA was detected in lining cells, osteoblasts, osteocytes, and osteoclasts at all stages of development. At the protein level, a similar expression pattern was observed, except for an absence of immunostaining in the lining cells. The staining was both nuclear and cytoplasmic. In most age groups, mRNA and protein signals were higher in males compared with females. We have demonstrated the presence of AR mRNA and protein in the tibial growth plate and the underlying metaphyseal bone during development of the rat. In male rats, the presence of higher messenger and protein staining intensities, as well as preferential nuclear staining during sexual maturation, suggests that direct actions of androgens in chondrocytes and in bone forming cells may be involved in establishing the gender differences in the skeleton.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information: The authors thank Dr. Palvimo for kindly providing the rat AR probe. This work was supported in part by a grant from the Gisela Thier Fund and by a grant from Ferring BV, The Netherlands.
© 2002 by Elsevier Science Inc.