Horm Metab Res 1992; 24(8): 367-370
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-1003337
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© Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart · New York

Ketoconazole Binds to the Human Androgen Receptor

C. Eil
  • Endocrinology-Metabolism Branch, Department of Internal Medicine, Naval Hospital and Uniformed Services, University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, U. S. A.
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Publication Date:
14 March 2008 (online)


Ketoconazole, an imidazole anti-fungal agent, has often produced features of androgen deficiency including decreased libido, gynecomastia, impotence, oligospermia, and decreased testosterone levels, in men being treated for chronic mycotic infections. Based on these potent effects on gonadal function in vivo as well as previous work in vitro demonstrating affinity of ketoconazole for receptor proteins for glucocorticoids and 1,25(OH)2vitamin D3 and for sex steroid binding globulin (SSBG), the binding of ketoconazole to human androgen receptors (AR) in vitro was also examined. Ketoconazole competition with [3H]methyltrienolone (R1881) for androgen binding sites in dispersed, intact cultured human skin fibroblasts was determined at 22 °C. Fifty percent displacement of [3H]R1881 binding to AR was achieved by 6.4±1.8 (SE) × 10-5M ketoconazole. Additional binding studies performed with ketoconazole in the presence of increasing amounts of [3H]R1881 showed that the interaction of ketoconazole with AR was competitive when the data were analyzed by the Scatchard method. It should be noted, however, that the dose of ketoconazole required for 50% Occupancy of the androgen receptor is not likely to be achieved in vivo, at least in plasma. Finally, androgen binding studies performed with other imidazoles, such as clotrimazole, miconazole, and fluconozole, revealed that in this class of compounds only ketoconazole appears to interact with the androgen receptor.

Ketoconazole appears to be the first example of a non-steroidal compound which binds competitively to both SSBG and multiple steroid hormone receptors, suggesting that the ligand binding sites of these proteins share some features in common.