We have used limited proteolysis of affinity-labeled estrogen receptors (ER), coupled with antireceptor antibody immunoreactivity, to assess structural features of ER and the relatedness of ER from MCF-7 human breast cancer and rat uterine cells. MCF-7 ER preparations covalently labeled with [3H]tamoxifen aziridine ([3H]TAZ) were treated with trypsin (T), a-chymotrypsin (C), or Staphylococcus aureus V8 protease prior to electrophoresis on sodium dodecyl sulfate gels. Fluorography revealed a distinctive ladder of ER fragments containing TAZ for each protease generated from the Mr 66 000 ER: for T, fragments of 50K, 38K, 36K, 31K, 29K, and 28K that with longer exposure generated a 6K fragment; for C, fragments of 50K, 38K, 35K, 33K, 31K, 19K, and 18K that with longer exposure generated 14K and 6K fragments; and for V8, ca. 10 fragments between 62K and 28K. Two-dimensional gels revealed charge heterogeneity (two to three spots between p/ 5.5 and 6.2) of the 66K ER and the T-generated 28K meroreceptor form. Immunoblot detection with the primate-specific antibody D75P37 revealed that all immunoreactive fragments corresponded to TAZ-labeled fragments but that some small TAZ-labeled fragments (V8-generated forms <47K and T-generated forms <3IK) were no longer immunoreactive. In contrast, use of the antibody H222Spγ revealed a correspondence between TAZ-labeled and immunoreactive fragments down to the smallest fragments generated, ca. 6K for T and C and 28K for V8. MCF-7 nuclear and cytosol ER showed very similar digest patterns, and there was a remarkable similarity in the TAZ-labeled and H222-immunoreactive fragments generated by proteolysis of both MCF-7 and rat uterine ER. These findings reveal great structural similarities between the human (breast cancer) and rat (uterine) ER and between nuclear and cytosol ER, indicate charge heterogeneity of ER, and allow a comparison of the immunoreactive and hormone attachment site domains of the ER. The observation that T and C generate a ca. 6K TAZ-labeled fragment that is also detectable with the H222 antibody should be of interest in studies determining the hormone binding domain of the ER and in amino acid sequencing of this region.
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