Human reporter gene assays: transcriptional activity of the androgen receptor is modulated by the cellular environment and promoter context.
ABSTRACT The androgen receptor (AR) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily and mediates the physiological effects of androgens. Androgens are essential for male development and disruption of androgen signaling may cause androgen-dependent developmental defects and/or tumors. Here we present a comparative analysis of various model systems for the investigation of endocrine active compounds in human cell lines. We generated reporter plasmids containing androgen response elements derived from the human secretory component or the rat probasin genes as well as the glucocorticoid consensus response element and compared their activities to that of the mouse mammary tumor virus promotor. Additionally, we generated an expression plasmid containing the AR cDNA derived from LNCaP cells. In 22Rv1 cells transiently transfected with human AR, all reporters displayed a dose-dependent, high activity when treated with androgens. Interestingly, the potency of testosterone and its metabolite dihydrotestosterone was very low in HepG2 but not in 22Rv1 cells, independent of the reporter used. The efficacies of the androgens tested were comparable in both cell lines but highly dependent on the reporter used. Based on these results, 22Rv1 cells provide a highly sensitive in vitro test system to analyze endocrine activities of xenobiotics. Furthermore, this study highlights the need to investigate the (anti-) androgenic activity of compounds in dependence of the cellular and promoter context.