[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A well established functional polymorphism of the human androgen receptor (hAR) is the length of AR's N-terminal glutamine tract (Q-tract). This tract is encoded by a CAG trinucleotide repeat and varies from 8 to 33 codons in the healthy population. Q-tract length is inversely correlated with AR transcriptional activity in vitro, but whether endogenous androgen action is affected is not consistently supported by results of clinical and epidemiological studies. To test whether Q-tract length influences androgen sensitivity in vivo, we examined effects of controlled androgen exposure in "humanized" mice with hAR knock-in alleles bearing 12, 21 or 48 CAGs. Mature male mice were analyzed before or 2weeks after orchidectomy, with or without a subdermal dihydrotestosterone (DHT) implant to attain stable levels of this non-aromatizable androgen. The validity of this DHT clamp was demonstrated by similar serum levels of DHT and its two primary 3αDiol and 3βDiol metabolites, regardless of AR Q-tract length. Q-tract length was inversely related to DHT-induced suppression of castrate serum LH (p=0.005), as well as seminal vesicle (SV) weight (p=0.005) and prostate lobe weights (p<0.006). This confirms that the hAR Q-tract polymorphism mediates in vivo tissue androgen sensitivity by impacting negative hypothalamic feedback and trophic androgen effects on target organs. In this manner, AR Q-tract length variation may influence numerous aspects of male health, from virilization to fertility, as well as androgen-dependent diseases, such as prostate cancer.
Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 06/2011; 342(1-2):81-6. · 4.04 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mutations in the androgen receptor (AR) that enable activation by antiandrogens occur in hormone-refractory prostate cancer, suggesting that mutant ARs are selected by treatment. To validate this hypothesis, we compared AR variants in metastases obtained by rapid autopsy of patients treated with flutamide or bicalutamide, or by excision of lymph node metastases from hormone-naïve patients. AR mutations occurred at low levels in all specimens, reflecting genetic heterogeneity of prostate cancer. Base changes recurring in multiple samples or multiple times per sample were considered putative selected mutations. Of 26 recurring missense mutations, most in the NH(2)-terminal domain (NTD) occurred in multiple tumors, whereas those in the ligand binding domain (LBD) were case specific. Hormone-naïve tumors had few recurring mutations and none in the LBD. Several AR variants were assessed for mechanisms that might underlie treatment resistance. Selection was evident for the promiscuous receptor AR-V716M, which dominated three metastases from one flutamide-treated patient. For the inactive cytoplasmically restricted splice variant AR23, coexpression with AR enhanced ligand response, supporting a decoy function. A novel NTD mutation, W435L, in a motif involved in intramolecular interaction influenced promoter-selective, cell-dependent transactivation. AR-E255K, mutated in a domain that interacts with an E3 ubiquitin ligase, led to increased protein stability and nuclear localization in the absence of ligand. Thus, treatment with antiandrogens selects for gain-of-function AR mutations with altered stability, promoter preference, or ligand specificity. These processes reveal multiple targets for effective therapies regardless of AR mutation.
Cancer Research 05/2009; 69(10):4434-42. · 8.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Gain-of-function mutations in the androgen receptor (AR) are found in prostate cancer and are implicated in the failure of hormone therapy. Most studies have emphasized the ligand-binding domain (LBD) where mutations can create promiscuous receptors, but mutations in the NH(2)-terminal transactivation domain have also been found. To assess AR alteration as a mechanism of treatment resistance, a mouse model (h/mAR-TRAMP) was used in which the murine AR coding region is replaced by human sequence and prostate cancer initiated by a transgenic oncogene. Mice received either no treatment, androgen depletion by castration, or treatment with antiandrogens, and 20 AR transcripts were sequenced per end-stage tumor. All tumors expressed several mutant alleles, although most mutations were low frequency. Some mutations that occurred multiple times within the population were differentially located dependent on treatment. Mutations in castrated or antiandrogen-treated mice were widely dispersed but with a prominent cluster in the LBD (amino acids 736-771), whereas changes in intact mice centered near the NH(2)-terminal polymorphic glutamine tract. Functional characterization of selected LBD mutant alleles showed diverse effects on AR activity, with about half of the mutations reducing transactivation in vitro. One receptor, AR-R753Q, behaved in a cell- and promoter-dependent manner, although as a germ-line mutation it causes androgen insensitivity syndrome. This suggests that alleles that are loss of function during development may still activate a subset of AR targets to become gain of function in tumorigenesis. Mutant ARs may thus use multiple mechanisms to evade cancer treatment.
Molecular Cancer Research 12/2008; 6(11):1691-701. · 4.35 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The androgen receptor (AR) is involved in the initiation and progression of prostate cancer and its transition to androgen independence. Genetic variation in AR may contribute to disease risk and has been studied for a polymorphic N-terminal glutamine (Q) tract that shows population heterogeneity. While the length of this tract is known to affect AR in vitro, association with disease is complicated by genetic and environmental factors that have led to discordant epidemiological findings. To clarify the effect of Q tract polymorphism on prostate cancer, we created mice bearing humanized AR genes (h/mAr) varying in Q tract length. ARs with short Q tracts (12Q), which are transcriptionally more active, induce earlier disease in the transgene-induced TRAMP prostate cancer model than alleles with median (21Q) or long (48Q) tracts. Disease length varies within each genotype, with greater differentiation and AR expression in slower growing tumors. Remarkably, following androgen ablation, Q tract length has effects that are also allele-dependent and in directions opposite to those in hormone intact mice. Differences in AR activity conferred by Q tract length thus appear to direct distinct pathways of androgen-independent as well as androgen-dependent progression, and highlight substantial risk that may be associated with alterations in the androgen axis. This AR allelic series in humanized mice provides an experimental paradigm to dissect the role of AR in prostate cancer initiation and progression, to model response to treatment and to test therapies targeted specifically to the human AR.
Human Molecular Genetics 02/2008; 17(1):98-110. · 7.69 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Polymorphism in the length of the N-terminal glutamine (Q) tract in the human androgen receptor (AR) has been implicated in affecting aspects of male health ranging from fertility to cancer. Extreme expansion of the tract underlies Kennedy disease, and in vitro the AR Q tract length correlates inversely with transactivation capacity. However, whether normal variation influences physiology or the etiology of disease has been controversial. To assess directly the functional significance of Q tract variation, we converted the mouse AR to the human sequence by germline gene targeting, introducing alleles with 12, 21, or 48 glutamines. These three "humanized" AR (h/mAR) mouse lines were grossly normal in growth, behavior, fertility, and reproductive tract morphology. Phenotypic analysis revealed traits that varied subtly with Q tract length, including body fat amount and, more notably, seminal vesicle weight. Upon molecular analysis, tissue-specific differences in AR levels and target gene expression were detected between mouse lines. In the prostate, probasin, Nkx3.1, and clusterin mRNAs trended in directions predicted for inverse correlation of Q tract length with AR activation. Remarkably, when crossed with transgenic adenocarcinoma of mouse prostate (TRAMP) mice, striking genotype-dependent differences in prostate cancer initiation and progression were revealed. This link between Q tract length and prostate cancer, likely due to differential activation of AR targets, corroborates human epidemiological studies. This h/mAR allelic series in a homogeneous mouse genetic background allows examination of numerous physiological traits for Q tract influences and provides an animal model to test novel drugs targeted specifically to human AR.