Androgens play a crucial role in the development, maintenance and regulation of male phenotype and reproductive physiology through the androgen receptor, a transcription factor. Testosterone or dihydrotestosterone binding induces a trans-conformation of the androgen receptor and allows its translocation into the nucleus, where it recognizes specific DNA sequences. Recent developments in molecular genetics, as well as structural analysis of the androgen receptor, allow a better understanding of the structure/function relationship of this nuclear receptor. Molecular analyses of androgen insensitivity syndrome, as well as hormone-resistant prostate cancer, Kennedy's disease and isolated male infertility, have been proved useful as privileged models for this purpose. In the absence of identified AR receptor mutations in androgen insensitivity syndromes, abnormalities of transcriptional cofactor should be considered. Finally, identification of androgen-dependent genes will be helpful for evaluating the degree of the molecular defect of androgen action within target cells.