Estrogen response element sequence impacts the conformation and transcriptional activity of estrogen receptor alpha

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2001 Mar 28;174(1-2):151-66. doi: 10.1016/s0303-7207(01)00382-3.


Estrogens play a critical role in mammary gland development, bone homeostasis, reproduction, and the pathogenesis of breast cancer by activating estrogen receptors (ERs) alpha and beta. Ligand-activated ER stimulates the expression of target proteins by interacting with specific DNA sequences: estrogen response elements (EREs). We have demonstrated that the ERE sequence and the nucleotide sequences flanking the ERE impact ERalpha binding affinity and transcriptional activation. Here, we examined whether the sequence of the ERE modulates ERalpha conformation by measuring changes in sensitivity to protease digestion. ERalpha, occupied by estradiol (E2) or 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-OHT), was incubated with select EREs and digested by chymotrypsin followed by a Western analysis with antibodies to ERalpha. ERE binding increased the sensitivity of ERalpha to chymotrypsin digestion. We found both ligand-specific and ERE-specific differences in ERalpha sensitivity to chymotrypsin digestion. The ERE-mediated increase in ERalpha sensitivity to chymotrypsin digestion correlates with E2-stimulated transcriptional activity from the same EREs in transiently transfected cells. Transcriptional activity also correlates with the affinity of ERalpha-ERE binding in vitro. Our results support the hypothesis that the ERE sequence acts as an allosteric effector, altering ER conformation. We speculate that ERE-induced alterations in ERalpha conformation modulate interaction with co-regulatory proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Base Sequence
  • Chymotrypsin / metabolism
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogens / chemistry
  • Estrogens / genetics*
  • Genes, Reporter / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Oligonucleotides / chemical synthesis
  • Oligonucleotides / pharmacology
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation / drug effects
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*
  • Response Elements*
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogens
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Estradiol
  • Chymotrypsin