Acetylation of nuclear receptors in cellular growth and apoptosis

Biochem Pharmacol. 2004 Sep 15;68(6):1199-208. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2004.05.037.


Post-translational modification of chromatin histones governs a key mechanism of transcriptional regulation. Histone acetylation, together with methylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitylation, sumoylation, glycosylation, and ADP ribosylation, modulate the activity of many genes by modifying both core histones and non-histone transcription factors. Epigenetic protein modification plays an important role in multiple cellular processes including DNA repair, protein stability, nuclear translocation, protein-protein interactions, and in regulation of cellular proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. Histone acetyltransferases modify histones, coactivators, nuclear transport proteins, structural proteins, cell cycle components and transcription factors including p53 and nuclear receptors. The estrogen, PPARgamma and androgen receptor are members of the nuclear receptor (NR) superfamily. The androgen receptor (AR) and estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) are directly acetylated by histone acetyltransferases at a motif that is conserved between species and other NR. Point mutations at the lysine residue within the acetylation motif of the AR and ERalpha have been identified in prostate cancer as well as in breast cancer tissue. Acetylation of the NR governs ligand sensitivity and hormone antagonist responses. The AR is acetylated by p300, P/CAF and TIP60 and acetylation of the AR regulates co-regulator recruitment and growth properties of the receptors in cultured cells and in vivo. AR acetylation mimic mutants convey reduced apoptosis and enhanced growth properties correlating with altered promoter specificity for cell-cycle target genes. Cell-cycle control proteins, including cyclins, in turn alter the access of transcription factors and nuclear receptors to the promoters of target genes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Deacetylases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology


  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Deacetylases