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Mol Cell Biol. 1996 Aug;16(8):4137-46.

The receptor-DNA complex determines the retinoid response: a mechanism for the diversification of the ligand signal.

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Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


To obtain insights into the principles governing the complex biological responses to retinoids, we have analyzed the ligand sensitivities of various retinoid receptor-DNA complexes. We find that different retinoid receptor heterodimers show distinct activation patterns with various response elements while a given heterodimer can be activated at different retinoic acid concentrations on different response elements. In vitro binding experiments suggest that the same retinoic acid receptor-retinoid X receptor (RAR-RXR) heterodimer can have different ligand affinities, depending on the response element it is bound to. The differential responses of a particular receptor heterodimer with various retinoic acid responsive elements can be enhanced through the use of conformationally restricted retinoids. RAR- and RXR-selective retinoids can also synergistically activate the receptor heterodimers, indicating that both partners in the heterodimer can contribute to ligand-induced transcriptional activation. However, the relative influence of the RAR or RXR partner is specific for each response element. Together, our data demonstrate that it is the receptor-DNA complex and not the receptor alone that determines the ligand response. This flexibility allows for a highly pleiotropic retinoid response. Furthermore, conformationally restricted retinoids can accentuate the differential responses and exhibit a certain degree of gene selectivity by differentially activating the RAR or RXR component in the context of a given response element.

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