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The opposing transcriptional activities of the two isoforms of the human progesterone receptor are due to differential cofactor binding.

Giangrande PH, Kimbrel EA, Edwards DP, McDonnell DP
Molecular and cellular biology


The human progesterone receptor (PR) exists as two functionally distinct isoforms, hPRA and hPRB. hPRB functions as a transcriptional activator in most cell and promoter contexts, while hPRA is transcriptionally inactive and functions as a strong ligand-dependent transdominant repressor of steroid hormone receptor transcriptional activity. Although the precise mechanism of hPRA-mediated transrepression is not fully understood, an inhibitory domain (ID) within human PR, which is necessary for transrepression by hPRA, has been identified. Interestingly, although ID is present within both hPR isoforms, it is functionally active only in the context of hPRA, suggesting that the two receptors adopt distinct conformations within the cell which allow hPRA to interact with a set of cofactors that are different from those recognized by hPRB. In support of this hypothesis, we identified, using phage display technology, hPRA-selective peptides which differentially modulate hPRA and hPRB transcriptional activity. Furthermore, using a combination of in vitro and in vivo methodologies, we demonstrate that the two receptors exhibit different cofactor interactions. Specifically, it was determined that hPRA has a higher affinity for the corepressor SMRT than hPRB and that this interaction is facilitated by ID. Interestingly, inhibition of SMRT activity, by either a dominant negative mutant (C'SMRT) or histone deacetylase inhibitors, reverses hPRA-mediated transrepression but does not convert hPRA to a transcriptional activator. Together, these data indicate that the ability of hPRA to transrepress steroid hormone receptor transcriptional activity and its inability to activate progesterone-responsive promoters occur by distinct mechanisms. To this effect, we observed that hPRA, unlike hPRB, was unable to efficiently recruit the transcriptional coactivators GRIP1 and SRC-1 upon agonist binding. Thus, although both receptors contain sequences within their ligand-binding domains known to be required for coactivator binding, the ability of PR to interact with cofactors in a productive manner is regulated by sequences contained within the amino terminus of the receptors. We propose, therefore, that hPRA is transcriptionally inactive due to its inability to efficiently recruit coactivators. Furthermore, our experiments indicate that hPRA interacts efficiently with the corepressor SMRT and that this activity permits it to function as a transdominant repressor.

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