In a subset of endocrine therapy-resistant prostate cancers, amino acid substitutions H874Y, T877A and T877S, which broaden ligand specificity of the ligand binding domain (LBD) of the androgen receptor (AR), have been detected. To increase our knowledge of the role of amino acid substitutions at these specific positions in prostate cancer, codons 874 and 877 were subjected to random mutagenesis. AR mutants were screened in a yeast readout system for responsiveness to 5α-dihydrotestosterone, progesterone and dehydroepiandrosterone. At position 874, only the histidine to tyrosine substitution could broaden AR ligand specificity. At position 877, 4 ligand specificity broadening substitutions were found: T877A, T877S, T877C and T877G. The latter 2 were not found in prostate cancer. The AR mutants were tested in mammalian (Hep3B) cells for responsiveness to 13 different ligands. All mutants displayed their own ligand specificity spectrum. Importantly, AR(H874Y) and AR(T877A) could be activated by cortisol. According to the 3-dimensional structure of the AR LBD, T877 interacts directly with the 17β-hydroxyl group of androgens. All amino acid substitutions identified at position 877 had smaller side chains than the threonine in the wild-type receptor, indicating that increased space in the ligand binding pocket is important in broadened ligand specificity. Because H874 does not interact directly with the ligand, its substitution by a tyrosine is expected to change the ligand binding pocket conformation indirectly. For T877C and T877G substitutions, 2-point mutations are required, and for H874Y, T877A and T877S substitutions, only a 1-point mutation is sufficient. This most likely explains that the latter 3 have been found in prostate cancer. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.