We have previously shown that the purified or unfractionated cytosolic, activated glucocorticoid receptor of rat liver consists of a polypeptide with a Stokes radius of ~ 6 nm, a sedimentation coefficient of 4 S and a molecular mass of ~ 90,000 Daltons. We have confirmed previous observations by other authors that if sodium molybdate is introduced into the cytosol preparation buffer the non-activated glucocorticoid receptor appears as an 8 nm, 9 S species with an apparent molecular mass of 330,000 Daltons. In order to study the physicochemical parameters of the glucocorticoid receptor prior to ligand binding, we have used an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) based on antibodies raised in rabbits against the purified activated glucocorticoid receptor. In isotonic buffer, the non-liganded glucocorticoid receptor was shown to have a Stokes radius of 6 nm in the absence and 8 nm in the presence of molybdate. Furthermore, experimental conditions known to result in activation of the glucocorticoid receptor complex (increased ionic strength, increased temperature) did not lead to activation of the 6 nm non-liganded glucocorticoid receptor as judged from the lack of binding of the treated, non-liganded receptor to DNA-cellulose. The existence of both 6 and 8 nm forms of nonactivated, non-liganded glucocorticoid receptor in vitro suggests that dissociation of an 8 nm form to a 6 nm form, if it occurs in vivo, is probably not the only molecular event constituting the activation of the glucocorticoid receptor.
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