Nuclear receptors (NRs) are a superfamily of transcription factors whose genomic functions are known to be activated by lipophilic ligands, but little is known about how to deactivate them or how to turn on their nongenomic functions. One obvious mechanism is to alter the nuclear localization of the receptors. Here, we show that protein kinase C (PKC) phosphorylates a highly conserved serine (Ser) between the two zinc fingers of the DNA binding domain of orphan receptor hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF4α). This Ser (S78) is adjacent to several positively charged residues (Arg or Lys), which we show here are involved in nuclear localization of HNF4α and are conserved in nearly all other NRs, along with the Ser/threonine (Thr). A phosphomimetic mutant of HNF4α(S78D) reduced DNA binding, transactivation ability, and protein stability. It also impaired nuclear localization, an effect that was greatly enhanced in the MODY1 mutant Q268X. Treatment of the hepatocellular carcinoma cell line HepG2 with PKC activator phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate also resulted in increased cytoplasmic localization of HNF4α as well as decreased endogenous HNF4α protein levels in a proteasome-dependent fashion. We also show that PKC phosphorylates the DNA binding domain of other NRs (retinoic acid receptor α, retinoid X receptor α, and thyroid hormone receptor β) and that phosphomimetic mutants of the same Ser/Thr result in cytoplasmic localization of retinoid X receptor α and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α. Thus, phosphorylation of this conserved Ser between the two zinc fingers may be a common mechanism for regulating the function of NRs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology