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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2004 Apr 15;218(1-2):21-38.

Crustacean retinoid-X receptor isoforms: distinctive DNA binding and receptor-receptor interaction with a cognate ecdysteroid receptor.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA.


We have identified cDNA clones that encode homologs of the ecdysteroid receptor (EcR) and retinoid-X receptor (RXR)/USP classes of nuclear receptors from the fiddler crab Uca pugilator (UpEcR and UpRXR). Several UpRXR cDNA splicing variants were found in coding regions that could potentially influence function. A five-amino acid (aa) insertion/deletion is located in the "T" box in the hinge region. Another 33-aa insertion/deletion is found inside the ligand-binding domain (LBD), between helix 1 and helix 3. Ribonuclease protection assays (RPA) showed that four UpRXR transcripts [UpRXR(+5+33), UpRXR(-5+33), UpRXR(+5-33) and UpRXR(-5-33)] were present in regenerating limb buds. UpRXR(-5+33) was the most abundant transcript present in regenerating limb buds in both early blastema and late premolt growth stages. Expression vectors for these UpRXR variants and UpEcR were constructed, and the proteins expressed in E. coli and in vitro expression systems. The expressed crab nuclear receptors were then characterized by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) pull down experiments. EMSA results showed that UpEcR/UpRXR(-5+33) heterocomplexes bound with a series of hormone response elements (HREs) including eip28/29, IRper-1, DR-4, and IRhsp-1 with appreciable affinity. Competition EMSA also showed that the affinity decreased as sequence composition deviated from a perfect consensus element. Binding to IRper-1 HREs occurred only if the heterodimer partner UpRXR contained the 33-aa LBD insertion. UpRXR lacking both the 5-aa and 33-aa insertion bound to a DR-1G HRE in the absence of UpEcR. The results of GST-pull down experiments showed that UpEcR interacted only with UpRXR variants containing the 33-aa insertion, and not with those lacking the 33-aa insertion. These in vitro receptor protein-DNA and receptor protein-protein interactions occurred in the absence of hormone (20-hydroxyecdysone and 9-cis retinoid acid, 9-cis RA). Transactivation studies using a hybrid UpEcR ligand-binding domain construct and UpRXR (+/-33) ligand-binding domain constructs also showed that the 33-aa insertion was indispensable in mediating ecdysteroid stimulated transactivation.

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