A conserved surface on the ligand binding domain of nuclear receptors for allosteric control
Nuclear receptors (NRs) form a large superfamily of transcription factors that participate in virtually every key biological process. They control development, fertility, gametogenesis and are misregulated in many cancers. Their enormous functional plasticity as transcription factors relates in part to NR-mediated interactions with hundreds of coregulatory proteins upon ligand (e.g., hormone) binding to their ligand binding domains (LBD), or following covalent modification. Some coregulator association relates to the distinct residues that shape a coactivator binding pocket termed AF-2, a surface groove that primarily determines the preference and specificity of protein–protein interactions. However, the highly conserved AF-2 pocket in the NR superfamily appears to be insufficient to account for NR subtype specificity leading to fine transcriptional modulation in certain settings. Additional protein–protein interaction surfaces, most notably on their LBD, may contribute to modulating NR function. NR coregulators and chaperones, normally much larger than the NR itself, may also bind to such interfaces. In the case of the androgen receptor (AR) LBD surface, structural and functional data highlighted the presence of another site named BF-3, which lies at a distinct but topographically adjacent surface to AF-2. AR BF-3 is a hot spot for mutations involved in prostate cancer and androgen insensitivity syndromes, and some FDA-approved drugs bind at this site. Structural studies suggested an allosteric relationship between AF-2 and BF-3, as occupancy of the latter affected coactivator recruitment to AF-2. Physiological relevant partners of AR BF-3 have not been described as yet. The newly discovered site is highly conserved among the steroid receptors subclass, but is also present in other NRs. Several missense mutations in the BF-3 regions of these human NRs are implicated in pathology and affect their function in vitro. The fact that AR BF-3 pocket is a druggable site evidences its pharmacological potential. Compounds that may affect allosterically NR function by binding to BF-3 open promising avenues to develop type-specific NR modulators.
Publication typeJournal article