Ligand-dependent, transcriptionally productive association of the amino- and carboxyl-terminal regions of a steroid hormone nuclear receptor

W. Lee Kraus, Eileen M. Mcinerney, Benita S. Katzenellenbogen

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The estrogen receptor (ER), a 66-kDa protein that mediates the actions of estrogens in estrogen-responsive tissues, is a member of a large superfamily of nuclear hormone receptors that function as ligand-activated transcription factors. ER shares a conserved structural and functional organization with other members of this superfamily, including two transcriptional activation functions (AFs), one located in its amino-terminal region (AF-1) and the second located in its carboxyl-terminal, ligand-binding region (AF-2). In most promoter contexts, synergism between AF-1 and AF-2 is required fur full ER activity. In these studies, we demonstrate a functional interaction of the two AF-containing regions of ER, when expressed as separate polypeptides in mammalian cells, in response to 17β-estradiol (E2) and antiestrogen binding. The interaction was transcriptionally productive only in response to E2, and was eliminated by point or deletion mutations that destroy AF-1 or AF-2 activity or E2 binding. Our results suggest a definitive mechanistic role for E2, in the activity of ER-namely, to alter receptor conformation to promote an association of the amino- and carboxyl-terminal regions, leading to transcriptional synergism between AF-1 and AF-2. The productive reassembly of two portions of ER expressed in cells as separate polypeptides demonstrates the evolutionarily conserved modular structural and functional organization of the nuclear hormone receptors. The ligand-dependent interaction of the two AF-containing regions of ER allows for the assembly of a complete activation function from two distinct regions within the same protein, providing a mechanism for hormonally regulated transcription.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12314-12318
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Dec 19 1995



  • activation domain
  • antiestrogen
  • estrogen
  • transcriptional synergism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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