Genetic studies indicate that the actions of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone are mediated by a single androgen receptor (AR). The basis for the differential effects of these hormones during development is not known. To address this problem, we have turned to the rabbit, a species in which the endocrine and metabolic events in male sexual differentiation have been studied in detail. As a first step, we have cloned a partial cDNA encoding the rabbit prostate AR and have analyzed the expression of the cDNA in tissues of rabbit embryos at the time during which male phenotypic differentiation takes place. The coding sequence of the rabbit AR cDNA reveals a high degree of conservation with the sequences of the human, mouse, and rat ARs. By Northern analysis the principal transcript expressed in the mesonephros and the anlage of the external genitalia on gestation day 18 appeared to be identical to the mRNA expressed in adult prostate and epididymis.