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Review
, 240 (4854), 889-95

The Steroid and Thyroid Hormone Receptor Superfamily

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Review

The Steroid and Thyroid Hormone Receptor Superfamily

R M Evans. Science.

Abstract

Analyses of steroid receptors are important for understanding molecular details of transcriptional control, as well as providing insight as to how an individual transacting factor contributes to cell identity and function. These studies have led to the identification of a superfamily of regulatory proteins that include receptors for thyroid hormone and the vertebrate morphogen retinoic acid. Although animals employ complex and often distinct ways to control their physiology and development, the discovery of receptor-related molecules in a wide range of species suggests that mechanisms underlying morphogenesis and homeostasis may be more ubiquitous than previously expected.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Alignment of nucleic acid sequences in regions correspond to identified HREs (–25). Numbering refers to nucleotide position relative to the start of transcription. Arrows indicate dyad axis of symme consensus sequence is derived from nucleotides conserved with a frequency of 50% or more. Specific references for HREs can be found in Fig. 2. GRE glucocorticoid response element; MMTV, mouse mammary tumor virus; hGH, human growth hormone; MSV, murine sarcoma virus; hMTIIA, human metallothionein; TO, tyrosine oxidase; TAT, tyrosine aminotransferase; ERE, estrogen response element; xVit, Xenopus vitellogenin; cVit, chicken vitellogenin; Oval, chicken ovalbumin; rPrl, rat prolactin;TRE thyroid hormone response element; and rGH, rat growth hormone.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Schematic amino acid comparison of members of the steroid hormone receptor superfamily. Primary amino acid sequences have been aligned on the basis of regions of maximum amino acid similarity, with the percentage amino acid identity indicated for each region in relation to the hGR (55). Domains shown are a domain at the NH2-terminal end, required for “Maximum activity”; the 66- to 68-amino acid DNA-binding core (“DNA”); and the 25-amino acid hormone-binding domain (“Hormone”). The amino acid position of each domain boundary is shown. Amino acid numbers for all receptors represent the human forms with the exception of v-erbA and E75 (46). Functional assignments have been determined by characterization of the glucocorticoid and estrogen receptors. Designations are as follows: GR, glucocorticoid receptor; MR, mineralocorticoid receptor; PR, progesterone receptor; ER, estrogen receptor; ERR1 or ERR2, estrogenr eceptor–related1 or 2; VDR, vitaminD3 receptor;and T3Rβ and T3Rα, thyroid hormone receptors. The (+) or (−) indicates whether a particular property has been demonstrated for the products of cloned receptor cDNA or with purified receptor. HRE, hormone response element. This relates to whether the binding site has been identified structurally and whether its enhancement properties have been demonstrated by gene transfer studies. For PR, DNA-binding properties have been shown only with the native purified receptor. “Hormone binding in vitro” indicates whether this property has been demonstrated by translation in a rabbit reticulocyte lysate system (26). “Hormone binding in vivo” refers to expression of the cloned receptor in transfected cells. “Chromosome” indicates the human chromosome location. Species are as follows: h, human; r, rat; m, mouse; c, chicken; and d, Drosophila.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
The cotransfection assay. Cultured cells are transfected with the receptor cDNA in an expression vector (the trans-vector). The function of this transcription factor can be monitored by the activity of a reporter gene (the luciferase gene) linked to an appropriate hormone-responsive promoter. In this case, the promoter is from the MMTV virus carrying a GRE enhancer. The trans-vector encodes the hGR, shown combining with the steroid hormone (triangle).
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
The finger swap.The modular structure of the steroid receptors allows the exchange of one domain for another to create a functional hybrid. Thus, if the DNA-binding domain of a candidate receptor is substituted with the corresponding region from the glucocorticoid receptor, the resulting chimeric receptor should stimulate the MTV promoter when exposed to the appropriate ligand. This approach was used to functionally identify the retinoic acid receptor (42, 43) and alter the binding specificity of the estrogen receptor (54).
Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.
(Top) Amino acid sequence comparison of DNA-binding domains. A computer program for the concurrent comparison of three or more amino acid sequences was used (47). Amino acid residues matched in at least five of the eight polypeptides are boxed and designated in the consensus (Con) sequence. Hyphens indicate divergent sequences; gaps indicate no comparable amino acids. Absolutely conserved residues are in bold print. (Bottom) Hypothetical structure of the DNA-binding domain of the hormone receptors. This domain is configured into two putative zinc-binding fingers with each zinc ion forming a tetrahedral coordination complex with Cys residues. Alternative coordination positions might include the Cys in the second finger and its proximal Cys, shortening the finger and shifting the last conserved Cys into the “trailer” region.

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