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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 1995 Aug 11;112(2):133-41.

Defects of androgen receptor function: from sex reversal to motor neurone disease.

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Centre for Hormone Research, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


The androgen receptor (AR) is a ligand-dependent DNA transcription factor that binds androgens which cause masculinisation of the developing male fetus. Classical abnormalities of receptor function result in the syndrome of androgen resistance, with resultant failure of normal male differentiation. In more recent years, however, mutations in the AR gene have been described in a number of diverse clinical conditions, from male infertility to prostate and breast cancer through to a form of motor neurone disease (Kennedy's disease). This review discusses the various AR gene mutations found in androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) and the other conditions described above, and relates how different mutations, or disruption of different functional domains, contributes to the various phenotypes. Mutations that cause complete AIS usually disrupt the DNA or steroid binding ability of the receptor. In partial AIS, mutations generally decrease receptor affinity for ligand, affect thermostability of the protein, or affect the ability of the receptor to activate transcription of responsive genes. Isolated mutations occur in the steroid binding domain of the receptor in prostate cancer, and many cancers have an identical mutation. Similarly, in the two cases of male breast cancer in which AR gene mutations have been described, the mutations in the DNA binding domain of the receptor are alike. In Kennedy's disease a trinucleotide repeat expansion occurs in exon A of the AR gene, which appears to affect ability of the receptor to bind ligand and activate transcription, although the mechanism of neuronal degeneration remains unknown.

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