One of the most intriguing polymorphisms in the GR [glucocorticoid (GC) receptor] gene is in codons 22 and 23 [GAGAGG(GluArg) --> GAAAAG (GluLys)]. This polymorphism is associated with a reduced GC sensitivity, a better metabolic and cardiovascular health profile, and an increased survival rate. Recently, Yudt and Cidlowski reported that two different methionine codons in the GR mRNA may be used as initiation codon: AUG-1 and AUG-27, resulting in two isoforms, the GR-A and the GR-B proteins, respectively. They also showed that the GR-B protein had a stronger transactivating effect in transient transfection experiments. In this study, we elucidated the molecular basis for the reduced GC sensitivity by investigating the influence of the ER22/23EK polymorphism on synthesis of GR-A and GR-B by expressing them independently from constructs with and without the polymorphic site. Binding studies with [(3)H]-dexamethasone and transactivation studies showed that, when the ER22/23EK polymorphism is present, approximately 15% more GR-A protein was expressed, whereas total GR levels (GR-A + GR-B) were not affected. These results show that the transcriptional activity in GR(ER22/23EK) carriers is decreased because more of the less transcriptionally active GR-A isoform is formed. This is probably caused by altered secondary mRNA structure.

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Molecular Endocrinology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Russcher, H., van Rossum, L., de Jong, F., Brinkmann, A., Lamberts, S., & Koper, J. (2005). Increased expression of the glucocorticoid receptor-A translational isoform as a result of the ER22/23EK polymorphism. Molecular Endocrinology, 19(7), 1687–1696. doi:10.1210/me.2004-0467