Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) is an X-linked motor neuronopathy caused by the expansion of an unstable CAG repeat in the coding region of the androgen receptor (AR) gene. To study AR protein expression in normal and SBMA individuals, we used several antibodies that recognize AR protein, and analyzed neural and nonneural tissues by immunohistochemistry and western blotting. Both the normal and the mutant AR proteins were widely distributed, predominantly, but not exclusively, in the cytoplasm of neurons regardless of the pathological involvement, and predominantly in the nuclei of the nonneural tissues in both normal and SBMA individuals, with different expression levels of AR protein among different tissues. In the motor neurons of SBMA patients, there were AR-immunoreactive ubiquitinated nuclear inclusions that were detected by antibodies that recognize a small portion of the N terminus of the AR protein. Absence of other immunoreactive AR epitopes within the inclusion may be due to altered AR configuration, or masking of AR epitopes by other proteins, or proteolytic cleavage of the AR. Our data show that, in addition to the normal cellular distribution of the AR protein, mutant AR-bearing nuclear inclusions are present in SBMA.
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