Estrogen receptors covalently labeled with the estrogen affinity label [3H]ketononestrol aziridine (KNA) or with the antiestrogen affinity label [3H]tamoxifen aziridine (TAZ) were subjected to limited proteolysis with trypsin, α-chymotrypsin, and Staphylococcus aureus V8 protease and then analyzed on 10-20% sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gradient gels followed by fluorography. The similar molecular weights of intact receptors (Mr 66,000 daltons) and the proteolytic digest patterns indicate extensive homology among estrogen receptors from MCF-7 human breast cancer cells, GH4 rat pituitary cells and rat uterus when liganded with estrogen or antiestrogen. Each protease generated a distinctive ladder of estrogen receptor fragments, and the fragmentation patterns were virtually identical for estrogen receptors labeled with estrogen (KNA) or antiestrogen (TAZ). Each protease yielded a relatively "resistant" receptor fragment of about 28,000-35,000 daltons. Trypsin and chymotrypsin at higher concentrations generated a much smaller 6,000-8,000 dalton digest product that still contained the [3H]KNA- or [3H]TAZ-labeled receptor binding site. Moreover, the receptor digest patterns were similar for estrogen receptors from the three different target cells. Our studies suggest considerable structural relatedness among these three estrogen receptors and also indicate that these two affinity labels bind to a similar, perhaps identical, region of the receptor molecule.
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