The neotropical cotton-top marmoset (Saguinus oedipus) is a New World primate known to have markedly increased total and free plasma cortisol concentrations when compared with Old World primates including man. The relative end-organ 'resistance' to glucocorticoids found in various New World primates has been attributed to a glucocorticoid receptor (GR) with diminished affinity for glucocorticoids. It has been demonstrated that the marmoset GR has approximately tenfold lower binding affinity for dexamethasone when compared with the human GR. We have examined the primary structure of the marmoset GR by molecular cloning and sequencing of GR functional domains. A library of cDNA clones was constructed in the phage vector λgt10 using poly(A)+ RNA from a marmoset-derived lymphoid cell line, and screened using the human GR cDNA. DNA sequencing determined 76 individual nucleotide substitutions in the coding region of the marmoset GR. Comparison of the marmoset GR nucleotide sequence with the human GR cDNA coding region indicated an overall sequence homology of about 97%. Thirty of the nucleotide substitutions lead to alterations in the predicted amino acid sequence (28 amino acid substitutions) of the marmoset GR.
The size of the marmoset GR predicted from the 778 amino acids is approximately 90 000 which is in agreement with previous size estimates of the human and marmoset GRs. Alterations of amino acid sequence in the marmoset GR were greatest towards the amino terminus, including the τ1 domain putatively involved in transcriptional activation. The DNA-binding domain contained an additional codon (arginine). Comparison of the DNA-binding domain of the marmoset GR with other members of the steroid receptor superfamily indicates that the additional arginine occurs in the same position as other amino acid insertions within the interfinger region of the human androgen receptor and the erb-A proto-oncogene. There are only four missense substitutions within the steroid-binding domain. Two of these substitutions occur within the transducing site which has been associated with binding of the GR to a 90 kDa heat shock protein. These data suggest that diminished GR affinity for glucocorticoids in the marmoset may be due to alterations in the primary structure of one or more functional domains of the GR gene. In addition, other important regulatory functions, such as transcriptional activation, DNA binding and receptor transduction, may also be affected.