Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

J. Don Chen


Transcription Factors, Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear, Repressor Proteins, Histone Deacetylases, Myogenic Regulatory Factors, Receptors, Estrogen


Nuclear hormone receptors (NHR) constitute a superfamily of ligand inducible transcriptional activators that enable an organism to regulate development and homeostasis through switching on or off target genes in response to stimuli reflecting changes in environment as well as endocrine. NHRs include classical steroid hormone receptors (GR, AR, ER and MR) and retinoid, thyroid hormone receptors. One long-term goal of our lab is to understand the molecular mechanisms through which the transcriptional activity of NHRs is regulated.

Extensive studies in the past few years have revealed that in addition to the dependence on ligand availability, the transcriptional activity of NHRs is also regulated by two types of proteins: co activators and corepressors. In the absence of ligand, many NHRs, including TR and RAR can actively repress target gene transcription with the help of corepressors, proteins that physically interact with both NHRs and histone deacetylases (HDACs). Functional interactions between NHRs and corepressors therefore lead to tightly compact and transcriptionally non-permissive chromatin structures after the removal of obstructive acetyl groups from histone tails by HDACs. On the other hand, ligand binding stabilizes NHRs in a conformation that favors interaction with proteins other than corepressors; many of these proteins are able to potentiate the transcriptional activity of NHRs through various mechanisms, such as histone acetylation, chromatin remodeling and recruitment of basal transcription machinery and are collectively termed coactivators.

Two highly related corepressors, SMRT (silencing mediator of retinoid and thyroid hormone receptors) and N-CoR (nuclear receptor corepressor), have been cloned. This research in corepressor SMRT started by a systematic study of its subcellular localization. We found that SMRT predominantly forms a specific nuclear punctuate structure that does not appear to overlap with any other well-known subnuclear domains/speckles. Although our searching for specific sequence signals that may determine the specific speckle localization of SMRT did not yield conclusive results, we discovered the colocalization of unliganded RAR and certain HDACs, including HDAC1, 3,4 and 5, in the SMRT nuclear speckles. Moreover, SMRT is likely to be the organizer of such speckles since it appears to be able to recruit other proteins into these speckles. The presence of HDAC1 in the SMRT speckles suggests a direct association between these two proteins, which has not been detected by previous biochemical analyses. Interestingly, HDAC1 point mutants that are completely defective in deacetylase activity failed to locate to SMRT nuclear speckles, while another partially active mutant maintained the colocalization. These discoveries may indicate SMRT nuclear speckles as novel nuclear domains involved in transcriptional repression. More physiologically relevant support for this hypothesis arises from study of HDAC4 and 5. HDAC4 and 5 are potent inhibitors of transcriptional activator MEF2C. Nuclear presence of HDAC4/5 can block the activation of MEF2C, which is required during muscle differentiation. Normally, HDAC4 is predominantly located in cytoplasm. However, we found that in the presence of SMRT overexpression, HDAC4 was found mostly in SMRT nuclear speckles. This accumulation enhanced HDAC4 mediated inhibition on MEF2C transcriptional activity in a transient transfection assay. SMRT overexpression also resulted in accumulation of HDAC5 in the SMRT nuclear speckles compared to the nuclear diffuse distribution in the absence of SMRT. Again, this accumulation of HDAC5 in nuclear speckles correlated with enhanced inhibition of MEF2C. Taken together, our study suggested that instead of being merely a corepressor for NHRs, SMRT might function as an organizer of a nuclear repression domain, which may be involved in a broad array of cellular processes.

In contrast to the limited number of corepressors, numerous co activators have been identified; the SRC (or p160) family is relatively well studied. This family includes three highly related members, SRC-1, TIF2/GRIP1, RAC3/AIB1/ACTR/p/CIP. Similar domain structures are shared among these factors, with the most highly conserved region, the bHLH-PAS domain found within the N terminal ~400 amino acid residues. This study of RAC3 aims to identify the function of the highly conserved N terminal bHLH-PAS domain by isolating interacting proteins through yeast two-hybrid screening. One candidate gene isolated encodes the C terminal fragment of the human homologue of the yeast protein MMS19. Functional studies of this small fragment revealed that it specifically interacted with human estrogen receptors (ERs) and inhibited ligand induced transcriptional activity of ERs in the transient transfection assay. Then we cloned the full-length human MMS19 cDNA and characterized the hMMS19 as a weak coactivator for estrogen receptors in the transient transfection assay. Furthermore, when tested on separate AF-1 or AF-2 of ERs, hMMS19 specifically enhanced AF-1 but had no effect on AF-2. These results identified hMMS19 as a specific coactivator for ER AF-1.


Some images did not scan well. Please see original for images. Pages 1-3 repeat in original document.



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