Role of coactivators and corepressors in steroid and nuclear receptor signaling: potential markers of tumor growth and drug sensitivity

Int J Biol Markers. Jul-Sep 2001;16(3):151-66.


Nuclear receptors regulate target gene expression in response to steroid and thyroid hormones, retinoids, vitamin D and other ligands. These ligand-dependent transcription factors function by contacting various nuclear cooperating proteins, called coactivators and corepressors, which mediate local chromatin remodeling as well as communication with the basal transcriptional apparatus. Nuclear receptors and their coregulatory proteins play a role in cancer and other diseases, one leading example being the estrogen receptor pathway in breast cancer. Coregulators are often present in limiting amounts in cell nuclei and modifications of their level of expression and/or structure lead to alterations in nuclear receptor functioning, which may be as pronounced as a complete inversion of signaling, i.e. from stimulating to repressing certain genes in response to an identical stimulus. In addition, hemizygous knock-out of certain coactivator genes has been demonstrated to produce cancer-prone phenotypes in mice. Thus, assessment of coactivator and corepressor expression and structure in tumors may turn out to be essential to determine the role of nuclear receptors in cancer and to predict prognosis and response to therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / physiology*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Receptor Cross-Talk / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology*
  • Receptors, Steroid / physiology*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Repressor Proteins