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Male infertility and the androgen receptor: molecular, clinical and therapeutic aspects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2009

EL Yong
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Q Wang
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
TG Tut
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
FJ Ghadessy
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
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Idiopathic male infertility has previously been diagnosed imprecisely, and has been treated using regimes that are not based on a clear understanding of the underlying pathophysiology; however, this is gradually changing, and a more rational approach is being adopted. Testosterone and its metabolite, DHT, is allimportant for the maintenance of sperm production and this has led us to examine the AR for causes of male infertility. Some, but not all, androgen-binding studies have indicated that in a certain proportion of cases of male infertility, defective androgen binding occurs. The cloning of the AR gene allowed for a more rigorous examination of the molecular pathogenesis which turned out to be both subtle and heterogeneous. Genetic screening of a large group of men with defective spermatogenesis has indicated that up to 30% of infertile males could have variations in the androgenicity of their AR caused by polymorphisms in the length of the polyglutamine tract. Substitutions of the AR in the LBD and the DBD can also lead to reduced AR function and male infertility. In this regard, it is interesting to note that depressed spermatogenesis and prostate cancer represent opposite ends of the spectrum of AR action (Figure 6). Although empirical treatment of AR mutants in some cases has been shown to restore normal AR function and to improve spermatogenesis, a fully rational basis of treatment has to be based on an understanding of the crystallographic structure of the AR LBD. A full understanding could lead to the construction and the administration of ‘designer’ androgen analogues to treat male infertility caused by mutations of the AR gene.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

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