BACKGROUND: Estrogens and androgens have anti-resorptive effects on bone, although recent evidence indicates that, even in men, estrogen is the dominant sex steroid regulating bone resorption. The receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand is essential for osteoclastic bone resorption, and its effects are blocked by the decoy receptor, osteoprotegerin (OPG). While estrogen has been shown to induce osteoblastic OPG production, the effects of androgens on OPG production have not been defined. METHODS: In this study, we assessed the regulation of OPG by androgens in hFOB/AR-6, an immortalized fetal osteoblastic cell line stably transfected with the human androgen receptor (AR), and MSC cells, primary human pluripotent marrow stromal cells capable of differentiating towards mature osteoblasts. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: 5Alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) dose-dependently decreased OPG mRNA levels and protein concentrations in hFOB/AR-6 cells by up to 50 and 60% respectively (P<0.001). Inhibition of OPG mRNA levels and protein production by 5alpha-DHT was completely abrogated by the AR antagonist, hydroxyflutamide (OHF), indicating that these effects are directly mediated by the AR. Of note, OHF alone increased OPG mRNA levels and protein secretion by 2- to 3-fold. Moreover, 5alpha-DHT and testosterone also decreased OPG protein secretion by 40-46% in the untransformed MSC cells, while OHF stimulated it. In conclusion, we demonstrate that androgens specifically inhibit OPG mRNA levels and protein secretion by osteoblastic cells.