To evaluate the role of androgens in the pathogenesis of prostatic dysplasia, we compared the localization of androgen receptor (AR) in proliferative and nonproliferative cells in normal and dysplastic acini. Basal cells, the only proliferating cells identified in normal acini, contained AR mRNA but lacked an immunodetectable receptor. Both AR mRNA and immunodetectable receptor were present, however, in secretory and stromal cells. Androgen receptor localization in dysplastic lesions was identical to normal but here the proliferative marker Ki-67 was found in both basal and secretory cells. Our findings suggest that androgens do not directly initiate the division of basal cells, the putative precursors of secretory cells. Instead, the hormone may act through its fully translated receptor to mainly mediate the differentiation of secretory cells. The presence of both AR and Ki-67 in dysplastic secretory cells may indicate an abnormal direct androgen-mediated proliferation in this compartment. This is consistent with previous evidence that secretory cell differentiation is impaired in dysplasia.