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EMBO J. 1997 Mar 17;16(6):1427-35.

Ligand-independent activation of the oestrogen receptor by mutation of a conserved tyrosine.

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Molecular Endocrinology Laboratory, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, UK.


The oestrogen receptor is a member of the nuclear receptor family of transcription factors which, on binding the steroid hormone 17beta-oestradiol, interacts with co-activator proteins and stimulates gene expression. Replacement of a single tyrosine in the hormone-binding domain generated activated forms of the receptor which stimulated transcription in the absence of hormone. This increased activation is related to a decrease in hydrophobicity and a reduction in size of the side chain of the amino acid with which the tyrosine is replaced. Ligand-independent, in common with ligand-dependent transcriptional activation, requires an amphipathic alpha-helix at the C-terminus of the ligand-binding domain which is essential for the interaction of the receptor with a number of potential co-activator proteins. In contrast to the wild-type protein, constitutively active receptors were able to bind both the receptor-interacting protein RIP-140 and the steroid receptor co-activator SRC-1 in a ligand-independent manner, although in the case of SRC-1 this was only evident when the receptors were prebound to DNA. We propose, therefore, that this tyrosine is required to maintain the receptor in a transcriptionally inactive state in the absence of hormone. Modification of this residue may generate a conformational change in the ligand-binding domain of the receptor to form an interacting surface which allows the recruitment of co-activators independent of hormone binding. This suggests that this tyrosine may be a target for a different signalling pathway which forms an alternative mechanism of activating oestrogen receptor-mediated transcription.

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