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Jun Yang and Morag J Young

The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily and is essential for controlling sodium transport in epithelial tissues such as the kidney and colon. Moreover, it is also present in other non-epithelial tissues and is capable of activation by both mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. A challenge in understanding transcriptional regulation by the MR and other nuclear receptors is to determine how tissue- and ligand-specificity is achieved. Over the past decade, it has become clear that a heterogeneous group of non-receptor proteins termed as coregulators are required to either enhance or repress nuclear receptor-mediated transactivation of target genes. A subset of these coregulators may be expected to confer specificity to MR-mediated responses by virtue of their variable tissue expression and selectivity for different ligands. Specific coregulator–MR interactions may be a suitable target in the rational design of tissue-specific MR modulators as has been described for other steroid receptors. However, the number of coregulators identified to date for the MR is very limited compared with other nuclear receptors. Understanding the full complement of MR coregulators is essential for unraveling the complexity of MR signaling pathways and will facilitate the development of selective MR modulators.

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Amanda J Rickard and Morag J Young

The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and glucocorticoid receptor are ligand-activated transcription factors that have important physiological and pathophysiological actions in a broad range of cell types including monocytes and macrophages. While the glucocorticoids cortisol and corticosterone have well-described anti-inflammatory actions on both recruited and tissue resident macrophages, a role for the mineralocorticoid aldosterone in these cells is largely undefined. Emerging evidence, however, suggests that MR signalling may promote pro-inflammatory effects. This review will discuss the current understanding of the role of corticosteroid receptors in macrophages and their effect on diseases involving inflammation, with a particular focus on cardiovascular disease.

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Gregory S Y Ong and Morag J Young

The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and mineralocorticoids regulate epithelial handling of electrolytes, and induces diverse effects on other tissues. Traditionally, the effects of MR were ascribed to ligand–receptor binding and activation of gene transcription. However, the MR also utilises a number of intracellular signalling cascades, often by transactivating unrelated receptors, to change cell function more rapidly. Although aldosterone is the physiological mineralocorticoid, it is not the sole ligand for MR. Tissue-selective and mineralocorticoid-specific effects are conferred through the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2, cellular redox status and properties of the MR itself. Furthermore, not all aldosterone effects are mediated via MR, with implication of the involvement of other membrane-bound receptors such as GPER. This review will describe the ligands, receptors and intracellular mechanisms available for mineralocorticoid hormone and receptor signalling and illustrate their complex interactions in physiology and disease.

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Jun Yang, Peter J Fuller, James Morgan, Hirotaka Shibata, Colin D Clyne, and Morag J Young

The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily. Pathological activation of the MR causes cardiac fibrosis and heart failure, but clinical use of MR antagonists is limited by the renal side effect of hyperkalemia. Coregulator proteins are known to be critical for nuclear receptor-mediated gene expression. Identification of coregulators, which mediate MR activity in a tissue-specific manner, may allow for the development of novel tissue-selective MR modulators that confer cardiac protection without adverse renal effects. Our earlier studies identified a consensus motif among MR-interacting peptides, MPxLxxLL. Gem (nuclear organelle)-associated protein 4 (GEMIN4) is one of the proteins that contain this motif. Transient transfection experiments in HEK293 and H9c2 cells demonstrated that GEMIN4 repressed agonist-induced MR transactivation in a cell-specific manner. Furthermore, overexpression of GEMIN4 significantly decreased, while knockdown of GEMIN4 increased, the mRNA expression of specific endogenous MR target genes. A physical interaction between GEMIN4 and MR is suggested by their nuclear co-localization upon agonist treatment. These findings indicate that GEMIN4 functions as a novel coregulator of the MR.

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Colin D Clyne, Kevin P Kusnadi, Alexander Cowcher, James Morgan, Jun Yang, Peter J Fuller, and Morag J Young

The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that regulates cardiorenal physiology and disease. Ligand-dependent MR transactivation involves a conformational change in the MR and recruitment of coregulatory proteins to form a unique DNA-binding complex at the hormone response element in target gene promoters. Differences in the recruitment of coregulatory proteins can promote tissue-, ligand- or gene-specific transcriptional outputs. The goal of this study was to evaluate the circadian protein TIMELESS as a selective regulator of MR transactivation. TIMELESS has an established role in cell cycle regulation and DNA repair. TIMELESS may not be central to mammalian clock function and does not bind DNA; however, RNA and protein levels oscillate over 24 h. Co-expression of TIMELESS down-regulated MR transactivation of an MR-responsive reporter in HEK293 cells, yet enhanced transactivation mediated by other steroid receptors. TIMELESS markedly inhibited MR transactivation of synthetic and native gene promoters and expression of MR target genes in H9c2 cardiac myoblasts. Immunofluorescence showed aldosterone induces colocalisation of TIMELESS and MR, although a direct interaction was not confirmed by coimmunoprecipitation. Potential regulation of circadian clock targets cryptochrome 1 and 2 by TIMELESS was not detected. However, our data suggest that these effects may involve TIMELESS coactivation of oestrogen receptor alpha (ERα). Taken together, these data suggest that TIMELESS may contribute to MR transcriptional outputs via enhancing ERα inhibitory actions on MR transactivation. Given the variable expression of TIMELESS in different cell types, these data offer new opportunities for the development of MR modulators with selective actions.