Our interest in nuclear receptors (NRs) originated from early studies on hepatic steroid metabolism. We discovered a new hypothalamo-pituitary-liver axis, imprinted neonatally by androgens and operating through sexually differentiated GH secretory patterns. Male and female patterns have opposite effects on sexually differentiated hepatic genes, explaining sexually dimorphic liver patterns. To further understand steroid action, we purified the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) leading to our discovery of the NR three-domain structure, with separable DNA binding domain and ligand binding domains and a third domain now known to have transcriptional regulatory properties. Knowledge of this domain structure has been immensely important for deciphering NR actions. Using this first purified NR, we collaborated with Keith Yamamoto and first demonstrated specific NR binding to DNA. This also was the first demonstration of a mammalian transcription factor, a breakthrough that led to discovery of NR response elements. In further collaboration with Yamamoto, we cloned the first NR cDNA sequences, leading to cloning of the superfamily of NR genes. With Yamamoto and Kaptein, we determined the first three-dimensional NR structure, that of DNA binding domain. Later work on orphan receptors resulted in the first discovery of: 1) endogenous ligands for an orphan receptor (fatty acids as activators of peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor α); 2) liver X receptor β (OR-1) and its role in central nervous system cholesterol homeostasis; and 3) estrogen receptor β, leading to a paradigm shift in understanding of estrogen signaling, of importance in endocrinology, immunology, and oncology and to development of estrogen receptor β agonists for treatment of autoimmune diseases, prostate disease, depression, and ovulatory dysfunction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology