SOX2 Modulates the Nuclear Organization and Transcriptional Activity of the Glucocorticoid Receptor

J Mol Biol. 2022 Dec 30;434(24):167869. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2022.167869. Epub 2022 Oct 26.


Steroid receptors (SRs) are ligand-dependent transcription factors (TFs) relevant to key cellular processes in both physiology and pathology, including some types of cancer. SOX2 is a master TF of pluripotency and self-renewal of embryonic stem cells, and its dysregulation is also associated with various types of human cancers. A potential crosstalk between these TFs could be relevant in malignant cells yet, to the best of our knowledge, no formal study has been performed thus far. Here we show, by quantitative live-cell imaging microscopy, that ectopic expression of SOX2 disrupts the formation of hormone-dependent intranuclear condensates of many steroid receptors (SRs), including those formed by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). SOX2 also reduces GR's binding to specific DNA targets and modulates its transcriptional activity. SOX2-driven effects on GR condensates do not require the intrinsically disordered N-terminal domain of the receptor and, surprisingly, neither relies on GR/SOX2 interactions. SOX2 also alters the intranuclear dynamics and compartmentalization of the SR coactivator NCoA-2 and impairs GR/NCoA-2 interactions. These results suggest an indirect mechanism underlying SOX2-driven effects on SRs involving this coactivator. Together, these results highlight that the transcriptional program elicited by GR relies on its nuclear organization and is intimately linked to the distribution of other GR partners, such as the NCoA-2 coactivator. Abnormal expression of SOX2, commonly observed in many tumors, may alter the biological action of GR and, probably, other SRs as well. Understanding this crosstalk may help to improve steroid hormone-based therapies in cancers with elevated SOX2 expression.

Keywords: coactivators; condensates; phase separation; pluripotency transcription factors; steroid receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nuclear Receptor Coactivator 1 / genetics
  • Nuclear Receptor Coactivator 1 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid* / genetics
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid* / metabolism
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors* / genetics
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors* / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • Nuclear Receptor Coactivator 1
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • SOX2 protein, human
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors