Human androgen receptor (AR) transcriptional activity involves interdomain and coactivator interactions with the agonist-bound AR ligand binding domain (LBD). Structural determinants of the AR NH(2)- and carboxyl-terminal interaction between the AR NH(2)-terminal FXXLF motif and activation function 2 (AF2) in the LBD were shown previously by crystallography. In this report, we provide evidence for a region in AR LBD helix 12 outside the AF2 binding cleft that facilitates interactions with the FXXLF and LXXLL motifs. Mutagenesis of glutamine 902 to alanine in AR LBD helix 12 (Q902A) disrupted AR FXXLF motif binding to AF2, but enhanced coactivator LXXLL motif binding. Functional compensation for defective FXXLF motif binding by AR-Q902A was suggested by the slower dissociation rate of bound androgen. Functional importance of glutamine 902 was indicated by the charged residue germline mutation Q902R that caused partial androgen insensitivity, and a similar somatic mutation Q902K reported in prostate cancer, both of which increased the androgen dissociation rate and decreased AR transcriptional activity. High affinity equilibrium androgen binding was retained by alanine substitution mutations at Tyr-739 in AR LBD helix 5 or Lys-905 in helix 12 structurally adjacent to AF2, whereas transcriptional activity decreased and the androgen dissociation increased. Deleterious effects of these loss of function mutations were rescued by the helix stabilizing AR prostate cancer somatic mutation H874Y. Sequence NH(2)-terminal to the AR FXXLF motif contributed to the AR NH(2)- and carboxyl-terminal interaction based on greater AR-2-30 FXXLF motif peptide binding to the agonist-bound AR LBD than a shorter AR-20-30 FXXLF motif peptide. We conclude that helix 12 residues outside the AF2 binding cleft modulate AR transcriptional activity by providing flexibility to accommodate FXXLF or LXXLL motif binding.