Apolipoprotein D (APOD) is a putative biomarker of androgen receptor function in androgen insensitivity syndrome.
Appari M., Werner R., Wünsch L., Cario G., Demeter J., Hiort O., Riepe F., Brooks JD., Holterhus P-M.
Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) is the most common cause of disorders of sex development usually caused by mutations in the androgen receptor (AR) gene. AIS is characterized by a poor genotype-phenotype correlation, and many patients with clinically presumed AIS do not seem to have mutations in the AR gene. We therefore aimed at identifying a biomarker enabling the assessment of the cellular function of the AR as a transcriptional activator. In the first step, we used complementary DNA (cDNA) microarrays for a genome-wide screen for androgen-regulated genes in two normal male primary scrotal skin fibroblast strains compared to two labia majora fibroblast strains from 46,XY females with complete AIS (CAIS). Apolipoprotein D (APOD) and two further transcripts were significantly upregulated by dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in scrotum fibroblasts, while CAIS labia majora cells were unresponsive. Microarray data were well correlated with quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR; R = 0.93). Subsequently, we used qRT-PCR in independent new cell cultures and confirmed the significant DHT-dependent upregulation of APOD in five normal scrotum strains [13.5 +/- 8.2 (SD)-fold] compared with three CAIS strains (1.2 +/- 0.7-fold, p = 0.028; t test) and six partial androgen insensitivity syndrome strains (2 +/- 1.3-fold, p = 0.034; t test). Moreover, two different 17ss-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase III deficiency labia majora strains showed APOD induction in the range of normal scrotum (9.96 +/- 1.4-fold), supporting AR specificity. Therefore, qRT-PCR of APOD messenger RNA transcription in primary cultures of labioscrotal skin fibroblasts is a promising tool for assessing AR function, potentially allowing a function-based diagnostic evaluation of AIS in the future.