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Free access

Elisabeth Presul, Stefan Schmidt, Reinhard Kofler and Arno Helmberg

Transcripts for the human glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1) are known to contain alternative first exons 1A1, 1A2, and 1A3 from the distal promoter or 1D, 1E, 1B, 1F, 1C, or 1H from the proximal promoter. Here, we report two additional alternative first exons identified by Rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE)-PCR. The first, exon 1I, starts approximately 700 bp downstream of the splice donor site of the longest form of exon 1A, 1A3, considerably extending the known distal promoter region with a region containing conserved transcription factor-binding sites as well as a potential glucocorticoid response element (GRE) that differs from the consensus GRE in only two positions. The second, exon 1J, is part of the proximal promoter region and resides between exons 1D and 1E. Since this has been determined by quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR, exon 1I is used foremost in cells of the T-lymphocyte lineage. In the T-ALL cell line CEM-C7H2, which is sensitive to glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis, transcripts containing alternative first exons from the distal as well as the proximal promoter regions were markedly autoinduced by glucocorticoid treatment, with more pronounced relative induction in the distal promoter. Neither transcript was autoinduced in the related, resistant cell lines CEM-C1, and CEM-C7R5. In contrast, the glucocorticoid-sensitive PreB697 cell line strongly autoinduced transcripts from the proximal promoter, but not transcripts from the distal promoter, to relevant levels. Therefore, the autoinductive feedback loop implicated in glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis cannot universally rely on the distal promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor.

Free access

Karin Ecker, Andreas Lorenz, Frank Wolf, Christian Ploner, Günther Böck, Tod Duncan, Stephan Geley and Arno Helmberg

To search for proteins interacting with the glucocorticoid receptor, we adapted Aronheim's reverse RAS recruitment system relying on the Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutant cdc25-2, which has a temperature-dependent defect in its RAS signaling pathway driving proliferation. The full-length human glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1, isoform-α) was attached to the yeast plasma membrane in either of two orientations and used as bait to screen a HeLa cell cDNA library. Library proteins were fused to constitutively active, soluble human RAS, complementing the defective yeast pathway in case of bait–prey interaction. Screening of 800 000 clones resulted in the isolation of 21 proteins, 8 of which were followed up to evaluate interaction with the receptor in human cell lines. One of these candidates, the SCAN- and KRAB-domain-containing zinc finger protein 307 (ZKSCAN4) was co-precipitated with the receptor when both proteins were overexpressed in HEK293 cells. Rabbit antisera against ZKSCAN4 were raised, affinity purified, and used to immunoprecipitate endogenous ZKSCAN4 from Hct116 cells, resulting in co-precipitation of endogenous glucocorticoid receptor. Overexpressed ZKSCAN4 was found to co-localize in granular nuclear structures with the activated glucocorticoid receptor and partially with chromatin regions characterized by histone H3 mono-methylated on lysine 4 (H3K4me1). Overexpressed ZKSCAN4 had no effect on an episomal glucocorticoid receptor-driven reporter plasmid. By contrast, ZKSCAN4 markedly reduced glucocorticoid induction of the mouse mammary tumor virus-promoter-driven reporter gene when this was chromosomally integrated, arguing for a chromatin-dependent inhibition of glucocorticoid receptor-mediated transactivation.

Free access

Katherine A Leehy, Tarah M Regan Anderson, Andrea R Daniel, Carol A Lange and Julie H Ostrander

Steroid hormone receptors (SRs) are heavily posttranslationally modified by the reversible addition of a variety of molecular moieties, including phosphorylation, acetylation, methylation, SUMOylation, and ubiquitination. These rapid and dynamic modifications may be combinatorial and interact (i.e. may be sequential, complement, or oppose each other), creating a vast array of uniquely modified receptor subspecies that allow for diverse receptor behaviors that enable highly sensitive and context-dependent hormone action. For example, in response to hormone or growth factor membrane-initiated signaling events, posttranslational modifications (PTMs) to SRs alter protein–protein interactions that govern the complex process of promoter or gene-set selection coupled to transcriptional repression or activation. Unique phosphorylation events allow SRs to associate or disassociate with specific cofactors that may include pioneer factors and other tethering partners, which specify the resulting transcriptome and ultimately change cell fate. The impact of PTMs on SR action is particularly profound in the context of breast tumorigenesis, in which frequent alterations in growth factor-initiated signaling pathways occur early and act as drivers of breast cancer progression toward endocrine resistance. In this article, with primary focus on breast cancer relevance, we review the mechanisms by which PTMs, including reversible phosphorylation events, regulate the closely related SRs, glucocorticoid receptor and progesterone receptor, allowing for precise biological responses to ever-changing hormonal stimuli.

Free access

Qianqian Lu, Yuying Yang, Sheng Jia, Shaoqiang Zhao, Bin Gu, Peng Lu, Yang He, Ruixin Liu, Jiqiu Wang, Guang Ning and Qinyun Ma

Appetite is tightly controlled by neural and hormonal signals in animals. In general, steroid receptor coactivator 1 (SRC1) enhances steroid hormone signalling in energy balance and serves as a common coactivator of several steroid receptors, such as oestrogen and glucocorticoid receptors. However, the key roles of SRC1 in energy balance remain largely unknown. We first confirmed that SRC1 is abundantly expressed in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC), which is a critical centre for regulating feeding and energy balance; it is further co-localised with agouti-related protein and proopiomelanocortin neurons in the arcuate nucleus. Interestingly, local SRC1 expression changes with the transition between sufficiency and deficiency of food supply. To identify its direct role in appetite regulation, we repressed SRC1 expression in the hypothalamic ARC using lentivirus shRNA and found that SRC1 deficiency significantly promoted food intake and body weight gain, particularly in mice fed with a high-fat diet. We also found the activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signalling pathway due to SRC1 deficiency. Thus, our results suggest that SRC1 in the ARC regulates appetite and body weight and that AMPK signalling is involved in this process. We believe that our study results have important implications for recognising the overlapping and integrating effects of several steroid hormones/receptors on accurate appetite regulation in future studies.

Free access

Robert M Dores, Richard L Londraville, Jeremy Prokop, Perry Davis, Nathan Dewey and Natalie Lesinski

The melanocortin receptors (MCRs) are a family of G protein-coupled receptors that are activated by melanocortin ligands derived from the proprotein, proopiomelanocortin (POMC). During the radiation of the gnathostomes, the five receptors have become functionally segregated (i.e. melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), pigmentation regulation; MC2R, glucocorticoid synthesis; MC3R and MC4R, energy homeostasis; and MC5R, exocrine gland physiology). A focus of this review is the role that ligand selectivity plays in the hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal–interrenal (HPA–I) axis of teleosts and tetrapods as a result of the exclusive ligand selectivity of MC2R for the ligand ACTH. A second focal point of this review is the roles that the accessory proteins melanocortin 2 receptor accessory protein 1 (MRAP1) and MRAP2 are playing in, respectively, the HPA–I axis (MC2R) and the regulation of energy homeostasis by neurons in the hypothalamus (MC4R) of teleosts and tetrapods. In addition, observations are presented on trends in the ligand selectivity parameters of cartilaginous fish, teleost, and tetrapod MC1R, MC3R, MC4R, and MC5R paralogs, and the modeling of the HFRW motif of ACTH(1–24) when compared with α-MSH. The radiation of the MCRs during the evolution of the gnathostomes provides examples of how the physiology of endocrine and neuronal circuits can be shaped by ligand selectivity, the intersession of reverse agonists (agouti-related peptides (AGRPs)), and interactions with accessory proteins (MRAPs).

Open access

Irit Hochberg, Innocence Harvey, Quynh T Tran, Erin J Stephenson, Ariel L Barkan, Alan R Saltiel, William F Chandler and Dave Bridges

Glucocorticoids have major effects on adipose tissue metabolism. To study tissue mRNA expression changes induced by chronic elevated endogenous glucocorticoids, we performed RNA sequencing on the subcutaneous adipose tissue from patients with Cushing's disease (n=5) compared to patients with nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas (n=11). We found a higher expression of transcripts involved in several metabolic pathways, including lipogenesis, proteolysis and glucose oxidation as well as a decreased expression of transcripts involved in inflammation and protein synthesis. To further study this in a model system, we subjected mice to dexamethasone treatment for 12 weeks and analyzed their inguinal (subcutaneous) fat pads, which led to similar findings. Additionally, mice treated with dexamethasone showed drastic decreases in lean body mass as well as increased fat mass, further supporting the human transcriptomic data. These data provide insight to transcriptional changes that may be responsible for the comorbidities associated with chronic elevations of glucocorticoids.

Restricted access

N Rosemblit and C-L C Chen


Clusterin, also known as sulphated glycoprotein-2 or testosterone-repressed prostate message-2, is a ubiquitous protein found in a variety of tissues and species. In the reproductive tract of the male rat, clusterin is regulated in a complex age-dependent and cell-specific manner. It is expressed at high levels in the epididymis and testis and at very low levels in the prostate under basal conditions. The expression of this gene in the prostate and seminal vesicles is associated with androgen withdrawal, while in the testis clusterin mRNA is repressed by cyclic AMP (cAMP). To understand the mechanisms that control the expression of the clusterin gene better, we isolated and characterized the gene encoding rat clusterin, and analysed its cytosine methylation pattern in various tissues. Several putative regulatory DNA elements were identified, including a consensus AP-1 site in the 5′ flanking region. Two AP-1 sites and two transforming growth factor-β inhibitory elements, one AP-2 site and eight half-sites for glucocorticoid/androgen response elements were found within the first intron, and one cAMP response element was found in the first exon. The cytosine methylation pattern indicated that testicular or epididymal DNA in the rat is hypomethylated in the region between positions −534 and −99 of the clusterin gene, when compared with tissues with lower levels of expression such as prostate as well as liver, lung, kidney and spleen.

Free access

Yanjun Liu, Yuichi Nakagawa, Ying Wang, Limei Liu, Hongwei Du, Wei Wang, Xiuhai Ren, Kabirullah Lutfy and Theodore C Friedman

Intracellular glucocorticoid (GC) receptor (GR) function determines tissue sensitivity to GCs and strongly affects the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity. 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) mediates intracellular steroid exposure to mouse liver GR by prereceptor reactivation of GCs and is crucially dependent on hexose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (H6PDH)-generating NADPH system. Pharmacological inhibition of 11β-HSD1 improves insulin intolerance and obesity. Here, we evaluated the potential beneficial effects of 11β-HSD1 inhibitor carbenoxolone (CBX) in diet-induced obese (DIO) and insulin-resistant mice by examining the possible influence of CBX on the expression of GR, 11β-HSD1, and H6PDH in vivo and in vitro in hepatocytes. Treatment of DIO mice with CBX markedly reduced hepatic GR mRNA levels and reduced weight gain, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance. The reduction of hepatic GR gene expression was accompanied by CBX-induced inhibition of both 11β-HSD1 and H6PDH activity and mRNA in the liver. Moreover, CBX treatment also suppressed the expression of both phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) and glucose-6-phosphatase enzyme (G6Pase) mRNA and improved hepatic [1, 2-3H] deoxy-d-glucose uptake in DIO mice. In addition, the treatment of primary cultures of hepatocytes with increasing concentrations of CBX led to a dose-dependent downregulation of GR mRNA levels, which correlated with the suppression of both 11β-HSD1 and H6PDH activity and their gene expression. Addition of CBX to primary hepatocytes also resulted in suppression of both PEPCK and G6Pase mRNA levels. These findings suggest that CBX exerts some of its beneficial effects, at least in part, by inhibiting hepatic GR and H6PDH expression.

Free access

Carolyn M Mitchell, Shane D Sykes, Xin Pan, Kirsty G Pringle, Eugenie R Lumbers, Jonathan J Hirst and Tamas Zakar

Correct timing of parturition requires inflammatory gene activation in the gestational tissues at term and repression during pregnancy. Promoter methylation at CpG dinucleotides represses gene activity; therefore, we examined the possibility that DNA methylation is involved in the regulation of labour-associated genes in human pregnancy. Amnion and decidua were collected at 11–17 weeks of gestation and at term following elective Caesarean delivery or spontaneous labour. Methylation of the inflammatory genes PTGS2, BMP2, NAMPT and CXCL2 was analysed using the Methyl-Profiler PCR System and bisulphite sequencing. Methylation of the glucocorticoid, progesterone and oestrogen receptor genes, involved in the hormonal regulation of gestational tissue function, and the expression of the DNA methyltransferases DNMT1, -3A and -3B were also determined. Variable proportions of inflammatory and steroid receptor gene copies, to a maximum of 50.9%, were densely methylated in both tissues consistent with repression. Densely methylated copy proportions were significantly different between genes showing no relationship with varying expression during pregnancy, between tissues and in individuals. Methylated copy proportions of all genes in amnion and most genes in decidua were highly correlated in individuals. DNMT1 and -3A were expressed in both tissues with significantly higher levels in the amnion at 11–17 weeks than at term. We conclude that the unmethylated portion of gene copies is responsible for the full range of regulated expression in the amnion and decidua during normal pregnancy. Dense methylation of individually variable gene copy proportions happens in the first trimester amnion influenced by sequence context and affected strongly by individual circumstances.

Free access

A Fleury, L Ducharme and JG LeHoux

In this study, we report the cDNA cloning of hamster adrenal steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein and the effect of adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) on its expression in vivo. A hamster adrenal cDNA library was screened using an 852 bp fragment obtained by polymerase chain reaction; this fragment corresponds to the entire coding sequence (CDS) of the hamster adrenal StAR cDNA. Ten clones of different lengths were isolated and sequenced. The longest clone was 1564 bp and contained 34 bp in the 5'-untranslated region, 852 bp in the CDS, and 678 bp in the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR). Two polyadenylation signal sequences were found in the 3'-UTR. The CDS of the ten isolated clones was identical, but six of these lacked the last 132 nucleotides in the 3'-UTR, thus indicating that they had used the first polyadenylation signal. The hamster StAR protein contains 284 amino acid residues, and is 91.9% homologous to mouse, 90.5% to rat, 86.4% to human, 85% to porcine, and 82.5% to bovine StAR protein. Southern blot analysis indicated the presence of only one StAR gene in the hamster genome. Northern blotting analysis revealed the presence of the StAR mRNA in male and female steroidogenic tissues, namely adrenals and gonads, but not in the liver or in the kidneys of either sex. Three mRNA species of 1.7, 3.1 and 5.3 kb were found in whole hamster adrenals. Administration of ACTH to hamsters provoked increases (two- to threefold) in the adrenal content of the StAR mRNA within 1 h in vivo. Western blotting analysis on adrenal mitochondria showed that the level of StAR protein was also significantly elevated (1.5-fold) 1 h after ACTH treatment.