To provide insight into androgen-mediated virilization, we measured the androgen receptor in tissues of male and female rat fetuses prior to and during the period of phenotypic sex differentiation. Western immunoblotting was performed utilizing an antibody directed against the 21 amino-terminal segment of the androgen receptor. In immunoblots prepared from urogenital tract tissues of day 17 male and female fetal rats, this antibody specifically recognizes a 11 OK protein band characteristic of the androgen receptor. Androgen receptor levels were low to undetectable in a variety of non-urogenital tract tissues. After day 18 of fetal development, the amount of androgen receptor decreased in female urogenital tissues, and by day 22 the amount of immunoreactive androgen receptor was higher in the male urogenital sinus and tubercle than in the corresponding tissues of the female. Administration of 5α-dihydrotestosterone to pregnant rats at a dose of 50 mg/kg body weight per day from day 12 to day 22 caused an increase in immunoreactive androgen receptor in the female urogenital sinus and tubercle to levels approaching those in male tissues. Administration of the androgen antagonist flutamide (100 mg/kg body weight per day) during the same interval caused a reduction in androgen receptor level in the urogenital sinus and tubercle of the male. These findings suggest that androgens modulate the amount of androgen receptor in the embryonic urogenital tract either by inducing the proliferation of androgen-responsive cells or by increasing androgen receptor levels in individual cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology