Communication between genomic and non-genomic signaling events coordinate steroid hormone actions

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Abstract

Steroid hormones are lipophilic molecules produced in one cell that can travel great distances within the body to elicit biological effects in another cell. In the canonical pathway, steroid hormone binding to a nuclear receptor (NR), often in the cytoplasm, causes the receptor to undergo a conformational change and translocate to the nucleus, where it interacts with specific sequences of DNA to regulate transcription. In addition to the classical genomic mechanism of action, alternate mechanisms of steroid activity have emerged that involve rapid, non-genomic signaling. The distinction between these two major mechanisms of action lies in the subcellular location of the initiating steroid hormone action. Importantly, the mechanisms of action are not exclusive, in that each can affect the activity of the other. Here, we describe the different types of genomic and non-genomic steroid hormone signaling mechanisms and how they can influence one another to ultimately regulate biology. Further, we discuss the approaches being used to study the non-genomic signaling events and address important caveats to be considered when designing new experiments. Thus, this minireview can serve as an introduction to the diverse signaling mechanisms of steroid hormones and offers initial, experimental guidance to those entering the field.

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