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Mol Endocrinol. 1995 Dec;9(12):1679-91.

TOR: a new orphan receptor expressed in the thymus that can modulate retinoid and thyroid hormone signals.

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  • 1La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation, California 92037, USA.


Vitamin A and other fat-soluble hormones and vitamins have important roles as modulators of essential biological processes such as homeostasis, development, differentiation, and oncogenesis and also as regulators of the immune system. The active form of vitamin A, retinoic acid, as well as vitamin D3 and thyroid hormones exert their actions by binding to specific nuclear receptors that represent one subfamily of the steroid/thyroid hormone receptor superfamily. To identify new members of the retinoid/thyroid hormone receptor subfamily that could play a role in the immune system, a screening of a T cell cDNA library was performed using a retinoid X receptor probe. A clone was isolated encoding a novel nuclear receptor expressed mainly in the thymus and T cell lines. This new receptor, TOR (thymus orphan receptor), is most closely related in both its DNA-binding domain and ligand-binding domain, 90% and 53%, respectively, to ROR alpha/RZR alpha and clusters with these two receptors and RZR beta in a phylogenetic tree, when both the DNA-binding domain and the ligand-binding domain sequences of nuclear receptors are compared. Thus, TOR is part of a subgroup of receptors, one of which has recently been reported to be activated by melatonin. TOR binds specifically to a direct repeat of the half-site sequence 5'-AGGTCA-3' with a four- or five-nucleotide spacer, DNA sequences that also serve as binding sites for thyroid hormone (TR), and retinoic acid receptors (RAR). In transient transfection experiments TOR does not activate a reporter gene carrying these sequences in the absence or the presence of any known nuclear receptor ligands. TOR, however, is able to repress TR and RAR activity on DR-4-TREs or DR-5-RAREs, respectively. Therefore, our data suggest that TOR, similar to COUP-TF, can negatively regulate retinoic acid and thyroid hormone signals. However, the response elements recognized by TOR and COUP-TF differ as do the expression patterns of these receptors. Thus, one important role of TOR could be to modulate retinoid and thyroid hormone signals in the thymus.

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