The molecular mechanisms underlying primary glucocorticoid resistance or hypersensitivity are not well understood. Using transfected COS-1 cells as a model system, we studied gene regulation by naturally occurring mutants of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) with single-point mutations in the regions encoding the ligand-binding domain or the N-terminal domain reflecting different phenotypic expression. We analyzed the capacity of these GR variants to regulate transcription from different promoters, either by binding directly to positive or negative glucocorticoid-response elements on the DNA or by interfering with protein-protein interactions. Decreased dexamethasone (DEX) binding to GR variants carrying mutations in the ligand-binding domain correlated well with decreased capacity to activate transcription from the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter. One variant, D641V, which suboptimally activated MMTV promoter-mediated transcription, repressed a PRL promoter element containing a negative glucocorticoid-response element with wild type activity. DEX-induced repression of transcription from elements of the intercellular adhesion molecule-1 promoter via nuclear factor-kappaB by the D641V variant was even more efficient compared with the wild type GR. We observed a general DEX-responsive AP-1-mediated transcriptional repression of the collagenase-1 promoter, even when receptor variants did not activate transcription from the MMTV promoter. Our findings indicate that different point mutations in the GR can affect separate pathways of gene regulation in a differential fashion, which can explain the various phenotypes observed.

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Molecular Endocrinology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

de Lange, P., Koper, J., Huizenga, N., Brinkmann, A., de Jong, F., Karl, M., … Lamberts, S. (1997). Differential hormone-dependent transcriptional activation and -repression by naturally occurring human glucocorticoid receptor variants. Molecular Endocrinology. Retrieved from