Nuclear import of the human androgen receptor was investigated by immunocytochemical analysis of androgen receptor deletion and substitution mutants, which were transiently expressed in COS-1 cells. The signal responsible for nuclear import is encoded by amino-acid residues 608-625 and is functionally similar to the bipartite nucleoplasmin nuclear-localization signal. Although the subcellular distribution of androgen receptors mutated in the DNA-binding domain was unchanged compared with the wild-type androgen receptor, in the presence of ligand these mutations resulted in part of the receptor population forming clusters. Depending on the presence or absence of the bipartite nuclear localization signal, clusters were formed in the nucleus or in the cytoplasm, respectively. Expression of the wild-type androgen receptor in different cell lines revealed a cell-line-specific subcellular distribution of the unliganded receptor. The androgen receptor was predominantly nuclear when expressed in HeLa cells, whereas mainly cytoplasmic staining was observed when it was expressed in COS-1 cells. In the presence of hormone, the androgen receptor was located in the nucleus, independent of the cell line that was expressing the receptor. Anti-androgens and various steroid hormones induced the nuclear localization of the wild-type androgen receptor in a dose-dependent way, without activating transcription of an androgen-regulated reporter gene. This indicates that the inability of the tested compounds to activate transcription is not due to inhibited nuclear import.

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