Molecular basis for the subtype discrimination of the estrogen receptor-β-selective ligand, diarylpropionitrile

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Although the two subtypes of the human estrogen receptor (ER), ERα and ERβ, share only 56% amino acid sequence identity in their ligand binding domain (LBD), the residues that surround the ligand are nearly identical; nevertheless, subtype-selective ligands are known. To understand the molecular basis by which diarylpropionitrile (DPN), an ERβ-selective ligand, is able to discriminate between the two ERs, we examined its activity on ER mutants and chimeric constructs generated by DNA shuffling. The N-terminal region of the ERβ LBD (through helix 6) appears to be fully responsible for the ERβ selectivity of DPN. In fact, a single ERα point mutation (L384M) was largely sufficient to switch the DPN response of this ER to that of the ERβ type, but residues in helix 3 are also important in achieving the full ERβ selectivity of DPN. Using molecular modeling, we found an energetically favorable fit for the S-DPN enantiomer in ERβ, in which the proximal phenol mimics the A ring of estradiol, and the nitrile engages in stabilizing interactions with residues in the ligand-binding pocket of ERβ. Our findings highlight that a limited number of critical interactions of DPN with the ERβ ligand-binding pocket underlie its ER subtype-selective character.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-258
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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