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Mol Cell Biol. 2002 Oct;22(20):7193-203.

Phosphorylation and intramolecular stabilization of the ligand binding domain in the nuclear receptor steroidogenic factor 1.

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Departments of Physiology. Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology. Biochemistry and Biophysics University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-0444, USA.


Steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) is an orphan nuclear receptor with no known ligand. We showed previously that phosphorylation at serine 203 located N'-terminal to the ligand binding domain (LBD) enhanced cofactor recruitment, analogous to the ligand-mediated recruitment in ligand-dependent receptors. In this study, results of biochemical analyses and an LBD helix assembly assay suggest that the SF-1 LBD adopts an active conformation, with helices 1 and 12 packed against the predicted alpha-helical bundle, in the apparent absence of ligand. Fine mapping of the previously defined proximal activation function in SF-1 showed that the activation function mapped fully to helix 1 of the LBD. Limited proteolyses demonstrate that phosphorylation of S203 in the hinge region mimics the stabilizing effects of ligand on the LBD. Moreover, similar effects were observed in an SF-1/thyroid hormone LBD chimera receptor, illustrating that the S203 phosphorylation effects are transferable to a heterologous ligand-dependent receptor. Our collective data suggest that the hinge together with helix 1 is an individualized specific motif, which is tightly associated with its cognate LBD. For SF-1, we find that this intramolecular association and hence receptor activity are further enhanced by mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphorylation, thus mimicking many of the ligand-induced changes observed for ligand-dependent receptors.

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