Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) is characterized by deficient or absent virilization in 46,XY individuals despite normal or even elevated androgen levels. AIS is usually caused by mutations in the androgen receptor (AR) gene. We aimed at contrasting clinical, biochemical, and molecular genetic characteristics of three patients (P1-P3) with clinically evident partial (P1) and complete (P2, P3) AIS with and without AR gene mutations. AR expression was studied in cultured genital skin fibroblasts (GSF) by Western immunoblotting, ligand binding analyses, Northern blotting, semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and RT-PCR spanning exons 1-8. AR gene DNA sequence was analyzed by single-strand conformation analysis (SSCA), and DNA sequencing. GSF revealed reduced (P1) or absent (P2, P3) ligand binding. Northern blots showed either slightly reduced hybridization of the 10.5-kb AR transcript (P3) or no hybridization (P1, P2), as confirmed by semiquantitative RT-PCR. RT-PCR spanning exons 1-8 detected single AR mRNA bands in P1-P3 excluding splicing errors. Western analyses showed either low (P1) or no (P2, P3) AR protein. While SSCA initially did not reveal any molecular abnormality, sequencing showed a novel CAG (Gln) to TAG (stop) mutation at codon 59 (P3) and a previously described 2-bp deletion at codon 472, leading to a frameshift and premature stop in codon 499 (P2). Intriguingly, P1 showed an unaltered DNA sequence of the coding region of the AR gene including all intron-exon boundaries. In conclusion, patients with clinically evident complete AIS are likely to harbor an AR gene mutation, demanding that the two polymorphic regions must always be included in molecular analyses of the AR gene. Moreover, our data support the concept that in a subset of AIS patients, particularly those with partial AIS, molecular alterations outside the coding region of the AR gene must be presumed.