Nandrolone is a testosterone analogue with anabolic properties commonly abused worldwide, recently utilized also as therapeutic agent in chronic diseases, cancer included. Here we investigated the impact of nandrolone on the metabolic phenotype in HepG2 cell line. The results attained show that pharmacological dosage of nandrolone, slowing cell growth, repressed mitochondrial respiration, inhibited the respiratory chain complexes I and III and enhanced mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Intriguingly, nandrolone caused a significant increase of stemness-markers in both 2D and 3D cultures, which resulted to be CxIII-ROS dependent. Notably, nandrolone negatively affected differentiation both in healthy hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells. Finally, nandrolone administration in mice confirmed the up-regulation of stemness-markers in liver, spleen and kidney. Our observations show, for the first time, that chronic administration of nandrolone, favoring maintenance of stem cells in different tissues would represent a precondition that, in addition to multiple hits, might enhance risk of carcinogenesis raising warnings about its abuse and therapeutic utilization.
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