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Nucleic Acids Res. 1996 Jun 15;24(12):2252-9.

Transactivation by the thyroid hormone receptor is dependent on the spacer sequence in hormone response elements containing directly repeated half-sites.

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Karolinska Institute, Medical Nobel Institute, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Laboratory of Developmental Biology, Stockholm, Sweden.


The thyroid hormone receptor (TR) regulates the transcription of its target genes by interacting with specific hormone response elements consisting usually of directly repeated half-sites with the consensus sequence AGGTCA. To investigate the role of the spacer sequences separating the half-sites, heterodimers formed by TRalpha and the retinoid-X receptor (RXR) were used in a PCR based selection and amplification assay. The TRalpha/RXR heterodimer selected for elements with directly repeated half-sites having a spacer of 4 nucleotides (DR4). Preferences for nucleotides in the TR binding half-site motif as well as for the 4 nucleotides separating the two half-sites were found. DNA binding and transfection studies using DR4 elements with different spacer sequences showed the importance of these nucleotides for the activity of the response element: some spacer sequences allowed little or no transactivation from the element, whereas other sequences supported strong transactivation. A pyrimidine nucleotide in position three of the spacer enhanced TRalpha binding and transactivation. Additional experiments showed that heterodimers between RXR and other putative receptors exhibited a similar but distinct specificity for the spacer sequence. Our results thus suggest that the four nucleotides separating the two half-sites in hormone response elements have a major role in determining induction of hormone responsive genes.

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