The androgen receptor belongs to the family of steroid-thyroid hormone-retinoid nuclear receptors. It contains 3 major domains: a hormone-binding region, a DNA-binding region and an amino-terminal region. Cloning of the cDNA encoding the androgen receptor and elucidation of the androgen receptor gene structure enabled the characterization of the molecular defects associated with androgen insensitivity. Mutations of the androgen receptor in 46,XY individuals cause a spectrum of androgen insensitivity syndromes, ranging from female phenotype (testicular feminization) to minor degrees of undervirilization or infertility. Reports on androgen receptor gene structure in patients with complete or partial forms of androgen insensitivity demonstrate that gene deletions are very rare. Several categories of mutations have been reported and are reviewed in this paper. Nucleotide substitutions in the androgen-binding domain or the N-terminal region that cause insertion of premature termination codons result in failure to form a functional protein. Missense mutations within the androgen-binding domain are responsible for a decrease or absence of receptor-binding activity. Mutations within the DNA-binding domain are associated with a positive receptor-binding form of androgen insensitivity. Analysis of described mutations indicates that they are spread throughout the gene, either associated with partial or complete androgen insensitivity. Furthermore, the same point mutation was reported to be associated with variable phenotypic expression of androgen insensitivity syndrome. It is thus difficult to define a genotype/phenotype relationship. However, mutations causing androgen insensitivity will certainly yield important new insights into the molecular basis of androgen action.