The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) differs from the other steroid receptors in that it responds to two physiological ligands, aldosterone and cortisol. In epithelial tissues, aldosterone selectivity is determined by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type II. In other tissues cortisol is the primary ligand; in some tissues cortisol may act as an antagonist. To better target MR, an understanding of the structural determinants of tissue and ligand-specific MR activation is required. Our focus is on interactions of the ligand-binding domain (LBD) with ligand, the N-terminal domain and putative co-regulatory molecules. Molecular modelling has identified a region in the LBD of the MR and indeed other steroid receptors that critically defines ligand-specificity for aldosterone and cortisol, yet is not part of the ligand-binding pocket. An interaction between the N-terminus and LBD observed in the MR is aldosterone-dependent but is unexpectedly antagonised by cortisol. The structural basis of this interaction has been defined. We have identified proteins which interact in the presence of either aldosterone or cortisol but not both. These have been confirmed as coactivators of the full-length hMR. The structural basis of this interaction has been determined for tesmin, a ligand-discriminant coactivator of the MR. The successful identification of the structural basis of antagonism and of ligand-specific interactions of the MR may provide the basis for the development of novel MR ligands with tissue specificity.
Keywords: Aldosterone; Coactivators; Corticosteroids; Cortisol; N/C-interaction.
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