A hotspot in the glucocorticoid receptor DNA-binding domain susceptible to loss of function mutation

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Abstract

Glucocorticoids (GCs) are used to treat a variety of inflammatory disorders and certain cancers. However, GC resistance occurs in subsets of patients. We found that EL4 cells, a GC-resistant mouse thymoma cell line, harbored a point mutation in their GC receptor (GR) gene, resulting in the substitution of arginine 493 by a cysteine in the second zinc finger of the DNA-binding domain. Allelic discrimination analyses revealed that the R493C mutation occurred on both alleles. In the absence of GCs, the GR in EL4 cells localized predominantly in the cytoplasm and upon dexamethasone treatment underwent nuclear translocation, suggesting that the ligand binding ability of the GR in EL4 cells was intact. In transient transfection assays, the R493C mutant could not transactivate the MMTV-luciferase reporter. Site-directed mutagenesis to revert the R493C mutation restored the transactivation activity. Cotransfection experiments showed that the R493C mutant did not inhibit the transcriptional activities of the wild-type GR. In addition, the R493C mutant did not repress either the AP-1 or NF-κB reporters as effectively as WT GR. Furthermore, stable expression of the WT GR in the EL4 cells enabled GC-mediated gene regulation, specifically upregulation of IκBα and downregulation of interferon γ and interleukin 17A. Arginine 493 is conserved among multiple species and all human nuclear receptors and its mutation has also been found in the human GR, androgen receptor, and mineralocorticoid receptor. Thus, R493 is necessary for the transcriptional activity of the GR and a hotspot for mutations that result in GC resistance.

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