Activation of COUP-TFI by a Novel Diindolylmethane Derivative

Kyungsil Yoon, Chien Cheng Chen, Asuka A. Orr, Patricia N. Barreto, Phanourios Tamamis, Stephen Safe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Chicken ovalbumin upstream promoter-transcription factor I (COUP-TFI) is an orphan receptor and member of the nuclear receptor superfamily. Among a series of methylene substituted diindolylmethanes (C-DIMs) containing substituted phenyl and heteroaromatic groups, we identified 1,1-bis(30-indolyl)-1-(4-pyridyl)-methane (DIM-C-Pyr-4) as an activator of COUP-TFI. Structure activity studies with structurally diverse heteroaromatic C-DIMs showed that the pyridyl substituted compound was active and the 4-pyridyl substituent was more potent than the 2- or 3-pyridyl analogs in transactivation assays in breast cancer cells. The DIM-C-Pyr-4 activated chimeric GAL4-COUP-TFI constructs containing full length, C- or N-terminal deletions, and transactivation was inhibited by phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase and protein kinase A inhibitors. However, DIM-C-Pyr-4 also induced transactivation and interactions of COUP-TFI and steroid receptor coactivators-1 and -2 in mammalian two-hybrid assays, and ligand-induced interactions of the C-terminal region of COUP-TFI were not affected by kinase inhibitors. We also showed that DIM-C-Pyr-4 activated COUP-TFI-dependent early growth response 1 (Egr-1) expression and this response primarily involved COUP-TFI interactions with Sp3 and to a lesser extent Sp1 bound to the proximal region of the Egr-1 promoter. Modeling studies showed interactions of DIM-C-Pyr-4 within the ligand binding domain of COUP-TFI. This report is the first to identify a COUP-TFI agonist and demonstrate activation of COUP-TFI-dependent Egr-1 expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number220
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Activation
  • DIM-C-Pyr-4
  • Egr-1
  • Sp proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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