Transcriptional regulation by steroid hormones

Steroids. 1996 Apr;61(4):240-51. doi: 10.1016/0039-128x(96)00030-x.


Steroid hormones influence the transcription of a large number of genes by virtue of their interaction with intracellular receptors, which are modular proteins composed of a ligand binding domain, a DNA binding domain, and several transactivation functions distributed along the molecule. The DNA binding domain is organized around two zinc ions and allows the receptors to bind as homodimers to palindromic DNA sequences, the hormones responsive elements (HRE), is such a way that each homodimer contacts one half of the palindrome. Since the two halves are separated by three base pairs, the two homodimers contact the same face of the double helix. Before hormone binding, the receptors are part of a complex with multiple chaperones which maintain the receptor in its steroid binding conformation. Following hormone binding, the complex dissociates and the receptors bind to HREs in chromatin. Regulation of gene expression by hormones involves an interaction of the DNA-bound receptors with other sequence-specific transcription factors and with the general transcription factors, which is partly mediated by co-activators and co-repressors. The specific array of cis regulatory elements in a particular promoter/enhancer region, as well as the organization of the DNA sequences in nucleosomes, specifies the network of receptor interactions. Depending on the nature of these interactions, the final outcome can be induction or repression of transcription. The various levels at which these interactions are modulated are discussed using as an example the promoter of the Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus and its organization in chromatin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Mammary Tumor Virus, Mouse / genetics*
  • Mammary Tumor Virus, Mouse / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Receptors, Steroid / chemistry
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Steroids / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Chromatin
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Steroids
  • Transcription Factors