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Coregulator Function: A Key To Understanding Tissue Specificity Of Selective Receptor Modulators

Carolyn L. Smith, Bert W. O’Malley

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Ligands for the nuclear receptor superfamily control many aspects of biology, including development, reproduction, and homeostasis, through regulation of the transcriptional activity of their cognate receptors. Selective receptor modulators (SRMs) are receptor ligands that exhibit agonistic or antagonistic biocharacter in a cell- and tissue context-dependent manner. The prototypical SRM is tamoxifen, which as a selective estrogen receptor modulator, can activate or inhibit estrogen receptor action. SRM-induced alterations in the conformation of the ligand-binding domains of nuclear receptors influence their abilities to interact with other proteins, such as coactivators and corepressors. It has been postulated, therefore, that the relative balance of coactivator and corepressor expression within a given target cell determines the relative agonist vs. antagonist activity of SRMs. However, recent evidence reveals that the cellular environment also plays a critical role in determining SRM biocharacter. Cellular signaling influences the activity and subcellular localization of coactivators and corepressors as well as nuclear receptors, and this contributes to gene-, cell-, and tissue-specific responses to SRM ligands. Increased understanding of the effect of cellular environment on nuclear receptors and their coregulators has the potential to open the field of SRM discovery and research to many members of the nuclear receptor superfamily.