The human prostate tumor cell line LNCaP contains an abnormal androgen receptor system with broad steroid binding specificity. Progestagens, estradiol and several antiandrogens compete with androgens for binding to the androgen receptor in the cells to a higher extent than in other androgen sensitive systems. Optimal growth of LNCaP cells is observed after addition of the synthetic androgen R1881 (0.1 nM). In addition, estrogens, progestagens and several antiandrogens do not inhibit androgen responsive growth, but have striking growth stimulatory effects and increase EGF receptor level and acid phosphatase secretion. We have found that the androgen receptor in the LNCaP cells contains a single point mutation changing the sense of codon 868 (Thr to Ala) in the ligand binding domain. Expression vectors containing the normal or mutated androgen receptor sequence were transfected into COS or HeLa cells. Androgens, progestagens, estrogens and several antiandrogens bind the mutated androgen receptor protein and activate the expression of an androgen-regulated reporter gene (GRE-tk-CAT), indicating that the mutation directly affects both binding specificity and the induction of gene expression. Interestingly, the antiandrogen casodex showed antiandrogenic properties in growth studies of LNCaP cells and did not induce reporter gene activity in Hela cells transfected with the mutant receptor. The mutated androgen receptor of LNCaP cells is therefore a useful tool in the elucidation of different levels of action of steroids and antisteroids.