Estradiol and progesterone bind to their respective receptors in the hypothalamus and hippocampus to influence a variety of behavioral and physiological functions, including reproduction and cognition. Work from our lab and others has shown that the nuclear receptor coactivators, steroid receptor coactivator-1 (SRC-1) and SRC-2, are essential for efficient estrogen receptor (ER) and progestin receptor (PR) transcriptional activity in brain and for hormone-dependent behaviors. While the expression of SRC-1 in brain has been studied extensively, little is known about the expression of SRC-2 in brain. In the present studies, we found that SRC-2 was highly expressed throughout the hippocampus, amygdala and hypothalamus, including the medial preoptic area (MPOA), ventral medial nucleus (VMN), arcuate nucleus (ARC), bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, supraoptic nucleus and suprachiasmatic nucleus. In order for coactivators to function with steroid receptors, they must be expressed in the same cells. Indeed, SRC-2 and ER(alpha) were coexpressed in many cells in the MPOA, VMN and ARC, all brain regions known to be involved in female reproductive behavior and physiology. While in vitro studies indicate that SRC-2 physically associates with ER and PR, very little is known about receptor-coactivator interactions in brain. Therefore, we used pull-down assays to test the hypotheses that SRC-2 from hypothalamic and hippocampal tissue physically associate with ER and PR subtypes in a ligand-dependent manner. SRC-2 from both brain regions interacted with ER(alpha) bound to agonist, but not in the absence of ligand or in the presence of the selective ER modulator, tamoxifen. Analysis by mass spectrometry confirmed these ligand-dependent interactions between ER(alpha) and SRC-2 from brain. In dramatic contrast, SRC-2 from brain showed little to no interaction with ERbeta. Interestingly, SRC-2 from both brain regions interacted with PR-B, but not PR-A, in a ligand-dependent manner. Taken together, these findings reveal that SRC-2 is expressed in brain regions known to mediate a variety of steroid-dependent functions. Furthermore, SRC-2 is expressed in many ER(alpha) containing cells in the hypothalamus. Finally, SRC-2 from brain interacts with ER and PR in a subtype-specific manner, which may contribute to the functional differences of these steroid receptor subtypes in brain.
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