[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Androgens, like estrogens, have been linked to neuroprotective effects in the brain and to the improvement of cognitive function. Part of this effect may be due to the action of androgens on the innate immune response. We have examined the action of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone on immune activation in primary cultures of microglia, the central nervous system macrophage. Our data indicate that DHT acts as an antiinflammatory agent and depresses both nitric oxide and TNFalpha production in a dose-dependent fashion. However, testosterone treatment of microglia and peritoneal macrophages increased supernatant nitrite levels, indicative of a proinflammatory effect. Because the apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype also dramatically impacts macrophage function and has been linked to neurodegenerative disease, we compared the effects of APOE genotype on androgen-mediated regulation of inflammation using targeted replacement mice expressing only the human APOE3 or human APOE4 gene. Our data show that the antiinflammatory activity of DHT is significantly reduced in APOE4 targeted replacement mice compared to APOE3 mice. The effect was not due to an APOE isoform-specific change in androgen receptor mRNA and protein expression. Rather, innate immune signaling pathways regulated by androgens are altered in the APOE4 microglia. Compared to APOE3 microglia, DHT treatment did not reduce the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK or p54/p56 Janus kinase in APOE4 mice. Thus, our data suggest that DHT modulation of kinase activity is altered in microglia from mice expressing an APOE4 genotype and may impact androgen treatment therapies in individuals with an APOE4 genotype.