Residual activity of mutant androgen receptors explains wolffian duct development in the complete androgen insensitivity syndrome

Sabine E. Hannema, Ian S. Scott, John Hodapp, Howard Martin, Nick Coleman, John W. Schwabe, Ieuan A. Hughes

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Development of the Wolffian ducts (WD) into epididymides and vasa deferentia is dependent on testosterone. Patients with the complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) are therefore not expected to develop these structures. However, WD derivatives have been described in cases of CAIS. It is thought that these may be remnants. This study assesses the degree of WD development in 33 patients with CAIS and investigates whether this development was androgen dependent. Epididymides and vasa deferentia were identified in 70% of patients with substitution mutations in the androgen receptor ligand-binding domain. They were more developed than epididymides and vasa deferentia from 16- to 20-wk-old male fetuses, suggesting that the WD had been stimulated to grow, rather than failed to regress. Receptors with substitutions in the ligand-binding domain were normally expressed and showed residual response to androgens in transactivation assays. Patients with premature stop codons or frameshift mutations, which prevented androgen receptor expression, or DNA-binding domain mutations that abolished transcriptional activity did not have epididymides or vasa deferentia. We hypothesize that mutant receptors with residual activity in vitro respond to high local testosterone concentrations in vivo, thereby stimulating WD development. The classification of androgen insensitivity in such patients should be considered severe rather than complete.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5815-5822
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004

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