It is possible that structural changes of the androgen receptor (AR) contribute to the insensitivity of prostatic carcinomas to endocrine therapy. We have isolated DNA from 58 human prostate tumor specimens (31 carcinomas pretreatment, 13 carcinomas after relapse to hormonal therapy, and 14 benign prostatic hyperplasia), three established human prostate carcinoma cell lines and two transplantable human prostatic carcinoma xenografts. Twelve pairs of oligonucleotide primers were used to amplify the majority of the coding region of the AR gene and the products screened for mutations using single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) techniques. In one tumor sample a cytosine to guanine transition in exon F which leads to substitution of glutamic acid for the wild type glutamine at position 798 of the ligand binding domain was detected. The same mutation was also found in the patient's genomic DNA and as been described in a patient with partial androgen insensitivity syndrome. Intronic mutations were detected in two of the benign prostatic hyperplasia samples, and a silent mutation at nucleotide 995 was found to be present in eight poorly differentiated carcinomas, one BPH specimen, as well as in the cell line DU145 (18% of the samples studied). In agreement with most of the literature, these studies indicate that AR mutations are rare both prior to therapy and even in androgen relapsed tumors.