Glucocorticoid and androgen receptors have been shown to function through the same palindromic glucocorticoid response element (GRE) and yet have differential effects on gene transcription. In this study, we examined the functional and structural relationship of the androgen and glucocorticoid receptors with the androgen responsive region (ARR) of the probasin (PB) gene containing two androgen receptor binding sites, ARBS-1 and ARBS-2. Transfection studies indicated that one copy of each cis-acting DNA element was essential for maximal androgen-induced chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) activity and that androgen selectivity was maintained when multiple copies of the minimal wild type (wt) androgen responsive region containing both ARBS-1 and ARBS-2 (-244 to -96) were subcloned in front of the thymidine kinase promoter. Furthermore, replacing the androgen response region with 1, 2 or 3 copies of either ARBS-1 or ARBS-2 restored less than 4% of the biological activity seen with the wt PB ARR. Multiple copies of either ARBS-1 or ARBS-2 did not result in glucocorticoid-induced CAT gene activity. By comparison, 1 or 2 copies of the tyrosine aminotransferase (TAT) GRE, as well as the mouse mammary tumour virus GRE, were strong inducers of CAT activity in response to both androgen and glucocorticoid treatment. In addition, band shift assays demonstrated that although the synthetic glucocorticoid receptor, GR-DNA binding domain (GR-DBD), and the synthetic androgen receptor, AR2, could interact with the TAT GRE (dissociation constants Kd of 63.9 and 14.1 respectively), only AR2 but not GR-DBD binding could be detected on ARBS-1 and ARBS-2. Our findings provide further evidence that androgen-induced regulation of gene transcription can occur through androgen-specific DNA binding sites that are distinct from the common GRE.
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