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Expansion of the polyglutamine (polyQ) tract within the androgen receptor (AR) causes neuromuscular degeneration in individuals with spinobulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA). PolyQ AR has diminished transcriptional function and exhibits ligand-dependent proteotoxicity, features that have both been implicated in SBMA; however, the extent to which altered AR transcriptional function contributes to pathogenesis remains controversial. Here, we sought to dissociate effects of diminished AR function from polyQ-mediated proteotoxicity by enhancing the transcriptional activity of polyQ AR. To accomplish this, we bypassed the inhibitory effect of AR SUMOylation (where SUMO indicates small ubiquitin-like modifier) by mutating conserved lysines in the polyQ AR that are sites of SUMOylation. We determined that replacement of these residues by arginine enhances polyQ AR activity as a hormone-dependent transcriptional regulator. In a murine model, disruption of polyQ AR SUMOylation rescued exercise endurance and type I muscle fiber atrophy; it also prolonged survival. These changes occurred without overt alterations in polyQ AR expression or aggregation, revealing the favorable trophic support exerted by the ligand-activated receptor. Our findings demonstrate beneficial effects of enhancing the transcriptional function of the ligand-activated polyQ AR and indicate that the SUMOylation pathway may be a potential target for therapeutic intervention in SBMA.