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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Apr;94(5):383-94. Epub 2005 Apr 22.

Gene regulation by the glucocorticoid receptor: structure:function relationship.

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  • 1Department of Human Biological Chemistry and Genetics, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-1068, USA.


The glucocorticoid receptor (GR) belongs to the superfamily of ligand-activated transcription factors, the nuclear hormone receptors. Like other members of the family, the GR possesses a modular structure consisting of three major domains-the N-terminal (NTD), DNA binding (DBD), and ligand binding (LBD). Although the structures of independently expressed GR DBD and LBD are known, the structures of the NTD and of full-length GR are lacking. Both DBD and LBD possess overall globular structures. Not much is known about the structure of the NTD, which contains the powerful AF1/tau1/enh2 transactivation region. Several studies have shown that AF1 region is mostly unstructured and that it can acquire folded functional conformation under certain potentially physiological conditions, namely in the presence of osmolytes, when the GR DBD is bound to glucocorticoid response element (GRE), and when AF1 binds other transcription factor proteins. These conditions are discussed here. The functions of the GR will be fully understood only when its working three-dimensional structure is known. Based on the available data, we propose a model to explain data which are not adequately accounted for in the classical models of GR action. In this review, we summarize and discuss current information on the structure of the GR in the context of its functional aspects, such as protein:DNA and protein:protein interactions. Because of the close similarities in modular organization among the members of the nuclear hormone receptors, the principles discussed here for the GR should be applicable to many other receptors in the family as well.

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