The androgen receptor (AR) in syndromes of androgen insensitivity and in prostate cancer

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2001 Jan-Mar;76(1-5):135-42. doi: 10.1016/s0960-0760(00)00158-8.


The actions of androgens, principally testosterone and 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone, are mediated by a specific receptor protein, the androgen receptor (AR), which is encoded by a single-copy gene located on the human X-chromosome. This receptor protein is a prototypical member of the nuclear receptor family and modulates a range of processes during embryogenesis and in the adult. During embryogenesis, normal AR function is critical to the development of the male phenotype and defects of the AR cause a range of phenotypic abnormalities of male sexual development. Complete loss of AR function has been traced to a number of distinct types of genetic events, including abnormalities of mRNA splicing, the introduction of premature termination codons, and amino acid substitution mutations. An interesting subset of mutations is that in which the AR is completely undetectable using sensitive immunoassays. In all instances, these functional abnormalities are associated with a phenotype of complete androgen insensitivity (complete testicular feminization). By contrast, partial defects of AR function are almost invariably caused by amino acid substitutions within the DNA- and hormone-binding domains of the receptor protein. Such partial defects of receptor function may be caused by changes in either receptor function or receptor abundance. The alterations of AR function and expression that have been characterized in clinical prostatic cancers and in prostate cancer cell lines differ in several important respects. A number of studies have documented the emergence of considerable heterogeneity of AR expression at early stages in the development of prostate cancer. Despite these early changes of AR expression, a substantial body of information suggests that the AR is expressed in advanced forms of prostate cancer, in some cases as the result of amplification events. While infrequent in localized tumors, mutations of the AR have been identified in a number of advanced prostatic cancers and in some instances appear to alter the ligand specificity of the AR. Finally, it appears that other signaling pathways can act to influence AR function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology*


  • Androgens
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Androgen