Differential Mechanisms of Nuclear Receptor Regulation by the Coactivator RAC3: A Dissertation

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Leo, Christopher
Life Sciences; Medicine and Health Sciences
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The steroid/thyroid hormone receptor superfamily is a large class of ligand-dependent transcription factors that plays a critical role in regulating the expression of genes involved in a broad range of physiological functions, including development, homeostasis, and reproduction. In the absence of cognate hormone, several receptors are able to repress transcription below the basal level via the recruitment of the nuclear receptor corepressors SMRT and NCoR. Upon hormone binding by the receptor, the corepressor complex is dissociated and a coactivator complex is subsequently recruited. This thesis details the mechanisms by which receptor-associated coactivator 3 (RAC3) interacts with nuclear receptors, particularly the vitamin D, estrogen, and retinoid receptors, and modulates their transcriptional activity. It was discovered that these receptors interact with different α-helical LXXLL motifs of RAC3 in vitro. Mutation of specific motifs differentially impairs the ability of RAC3 to enhance transcription by the receptors in vivo. In addition, the intrinsic transcriptional activation function of RAC3 was also characterized. Here, a single LXXLL motif, NR box v, was found to be essential to activation by serving as a binding surface for the general transcriptional integrator CBP/p300. Finally, the cofactor binding pocket of retinoid receptors was characterized. It was demonstrated that, to a large extent, the coactivator pocket of RARα overlaps with the corepressor pocket, with the exception of helix 12, which is required for coactivator, but not corepressor binding. Recruitment of RAC3 or SMRT also correlates directly with the ability of RARα to activate or repress transcription, respectively. Intriguingly, it was discovered that the AF-2 domain of RXRα inhibited cofactor binding to RXRα heterodimers, for deletion of this domain dramatically enhanced RAC3 and SMRT binding. In addition, it was demonstrated that the RXRα cofactor binding pocket contributed minimally to recruitment of cofactors. Conversely, the AF-2 domain of the partnering monomer and its cofactor pocket were required for these interactions. These findings suggest that the partner of RXRα is the primary docking point for cofactors at RXRα heterodimeric complexes. Taken together, this work contributes significantly to the field of nuclear receptor function in detailing the mechanisms by which the coactivator RAC3 is recruited to nuclear receptors and regulates their transcriptional activity.