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J Biol Chem. 2001 Nov 16;276(46):42714-21. Epub 2001 Sep 12.

Proteasome-mediated glucocorticoid receptor degradation restricts transcriptional signaling by glucocorticoids.

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Molecular Endocrinology Group, Laboratory of Signal Transduction, NIEHS, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


Ligand-dependent down-regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) has been shown to limit hormone responsiveness, but the mechanisms involved in this process are poorly understood. The glucocorticoid receptor is a phosphoprotein that upon ligand binding becomes hyperphosphorylated, and recent evidence indicates that phosphorylation status of the glucocorticoid receptor plays a prominent role in receptor protein turnover. Because phosphorylation is a key signal for ubiquitination and proteasomal catabolism of many proteins, we evaluated whether the ubiquitin-proteasomal pathway had a role in glucocorticoid receptor down-regulation and the subsequent transcriptional response to glucocorticoids. Pretreatment of COS-1 cells expressing mouse glucocorticoid receptor with the proteasome inhibitor MG-132 effectively blocks glucocorticoid receptor protein down-regulation by the glucocorticoid dexamethasone. Interestingly, both MG-132 and a second proteasome inhibitor beta-lactone significantly enhanced hormone response of transfected mouse glucocorticoid receptor toward transcriptional activation of glucocorticoid receptor-mediated reporter gene expression. The transcriptional activity of the endogenous human glucocorticoid receptor in HeLa cells was also enhanced by MG-132. Direct evidence for ubiquitination of the glucocorticoid receptor was obtained by immunoprecipitation of cellular extracts from proteasome-impaired cells. Examination of the primary sequence of mouse, human, and rat glucocorticoid receptor has identified a candidate PEST degradation motif. Mutation of Lys-426 within this PEST element both abrogated ligand-dependent down-regulation of glucocorticoid receptor protein and simultaneously enhanced glucocorticoid receptor-induced transcriptional activation of gene expression. Unlike wild type GR, proteasomal inhibition failed to enhance significantly transcriptional activity of K426A mutant GR. Together these findings suggest a major role of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in regulating glucocorticoid receptor protein turnover, thereby providing a mechanism to terminate glucocorticoid responses.

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