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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Molecular determinants of differential ligand sensitivities of insect ecdysteroid receptors.

The functional receptor for insect ecdysteroid hormones is a heterodimer consisting of two nuclear hormone receptors, ecdysteroid receptor (EcR) and the retinoid X receptor homologue Ultraspiracle (USP). Although ecdysone is commonly thought to be a hormone precursor and 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E), the physiologically active steroid, little is known about the relative activity of ecdysteroids in various arthropods. As a step toward characterization of potential differential ligand recognition, we have analyzed the activities of various ecdysteroids using gel mobility shift assays and transfection assays in Schneider-2 (S2) cells. Ecdysone showed little activation of the Drosophila melanogaster receptor complex (DmEcR-USP). In contrast, this steroid functioned as a potent ligand for the mosquito Aedes aegypti receptor complex (AaEcR-USP), significantly enhancing DNA binding and transactivating a reporter gene in S2 cells. The mosquito receptor also displayed higher hormone-independent DNA binding activity than the Drosophila receptor. Subunit-swapping experiments indicated that the EcR protein, not the USP protein, was responsible for ligand specificity. Using domain-swapping techniques, we made a series of Aedes and Drosophila EcR chimeric constructs. Differential ligand responsiveness was mapped near the C terminus of the ligand binding domain, within the identity box previously implicated in the dimerization specificity of nuclear receptors. This region includes helices 9 and 10, as determined by comparison with available crystal structures obtained from other nuclear receptors. Site-directed mutagenesis revealed that Phe529 in Aedes EcR, corresponding to Tyr611 in Drosophila EcR, was most critical for ligand specificity and hormone-independent DNA binding activity. These results demonstrated that ecdysone could function as a bona fide ligand in a species-specific manner.[1]


  1. Molecular determinants of differential ligand sensitivities of insect ecdysteroid receptors. Wang, S.F., Ayer, S., Segraves, W.A., Williams, D.R., Raikhel, A.S. Mol. Cell. Biol. (2000) [Pubmed]
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