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J Biol Chem. 1998 Sep 11;273(37):24216-22.

Multiple receptor domains interact to permit, or restrict, androgen-specific gene activation.

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  • 1Department of Human Genetics, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0618, USA.


A critical problem within transcription factor families is how diverse regulatory programs are directed by highly related members. Androgen and glucocorticoid receptors (AR, GR) recognize a consensus DNA hormone response element (HRE), but they activate target genes with precise specificity, largely dependent on the promoter and cell context. We have assessed the role of different receptor domains in hormone-specific response by testing chimeras of AR and GR for their ability to activate the androgen-specific enhancer of the mouse sex-limited protein (Slp) gene. Although all of the mutant receptors activated simple HREs, only a few activated the androgen-specific element. One component shared by receptors functional on the AR-specific target was the AR DNA binding domain. Activation was not due to differential DNA affinity but rather to the AR DNA binding domain escaping suppression directed at the GR DNA binding domain in this enhancer context. A further mechanism increasing specific activation was cooperation of receptors at multiple and weak HREs, which was accentuated in the presence of both the AR N terminus and ligand binding domain. These domains together increased recognition of weak HREs, as demonstrated by in vitro DNase I footprinting and transactivation of mutant enhancers. Further, AR N-terminal subdomains reported to interact directly with the ligand binding domain relieved an inhibitory effect imposed by that domain. Therefore, functions intrinsic to AR augment steroid-specific gene activation, by evading negative regulation operating on the domains of other receptors and by enhancing cooperativity through intra- and inter-receptor domain interactions. These subtle distinctions in AR and GR behavior enforce transcriptional specificity established by the context of nonreceptor factors.

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