Mechanistic aspects of estrogen receptor activation probed with constitutively active estrogen receptors: Correlations with DNA and coregulator interactions and receptor conformational changes

Gwendal Lazennec, Tracy R. Ediger, Larry N. Petz, Ann M. Nardulli, Benita S. Katzenellenbogen

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The estrogen receptor (ER) belongs to a large family of nuclear receptors, many of whose members function as ligand-dependent transcriptional activators. The mechanism by which the receptor is converted from an inactive into an activated state is not yet completely understood. To investigate the kind of changes in receptor conformation and interactions that are involved in this activation, we have used the wild type ER and a set of constitutively active ER point mutants that show from 20% to nearly 100% activity in the absence of estrogen. These mutants are of particular interest as they could mimic, in the absence of ligand, the activated state of the wild type receptor. We have analyzed several transcriptional steps that could be involved in the activation: the ability of these receptors 1) to interact with several coactivators (steroid receptor coactivator-1, SRC-1; transcription intermediary factor-1, TIF-1; and estrogen receptor-associated protein 140, ERAP 140) and with members of the preinitiation complex [TATA box-binding protein (TBP), transcription factor lib (TFIIB)]; 2) to exhibit conformational changes revealed by proteolytic digest patterns similar to those observed for the wild type hormone-occupied ER; and 3) to bend estrogen response element-containing DNA, which is thought to be one of the important phenomena triggering transcriptional activation. Our results demonstrate that the interaction of these mutant receptors with coactivators is likely to be one of rite features of the activated step, as the mutant receptors interacted with some coactivators in a ligand-independent manner in proportion to their extent of constitutive activity. However, the different degrees of ligand-independent interaction of the mutant ERs with the three coactivators suggest that SRC-1, TIF-1, and ERAP 140 may play different roles in receptor activity. Limited proteolytic digest experiments reveal that the activated state of the receptor corresponds to a particular conformation of the receptor, which is fully observed with the mutant ER showing the highest activity in the absence of estrogen. Finally, it appears that in inactive or active states, the receptor exhibits distinctly different DNA-bending abilities. Addition of estradiol is able to modify the bending ability of only the wild type receptor whereas estradiol has no influence on the constitutive receptors, which exhibited the same bending ability as that observed for the ligand-occupied wild type receptor. These data document that the ER undergoes major changes in its conformation and also in its functional properties when it is turned from an inactive into an active state and that mutational changes in the ER protein that result in constitutive, hormone- independent activation mimic many of the changes in ER properties that are normally under hormone regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1375-1386
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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