Concept: Hormone response element
A newly discovered negative glucocorticoid response element (nGRE) mediates DNA-dependent transrepression by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) across the genome and has a major role in immunosuppressive therapy. The nGRE differs dramatically from activating response elements, and the mechanism driving GR binding and transrepression is unknown. To unravel the mechanism of nGRE-mediated transrepression by the GR, we characterized the interaction between GR and an nGRE in the thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) promoter. We show using structural and mechanistic approaches that nGRE binding is a new mode of sequence recognition by human GR and that nGREs prevent receptor dimerization through a unique GR-binding orientation and strong negative cooperativity, ensuring the presence of monomeric GR at repressive elements.
Gene regulation resulting from glucocorticoid receptor and glucocorticoid response element interactions is a hallmark feature of stress response signaling. Imbalanced glucocorticoid production and glucocorticoid receptor activity have been linked to socio-economically crippling neuropsychiatric disorders, and accordingly there is a need to develop in vivo models to help understand disease progression and management. Therefore, we developed the transgenic SR4G zebrafish reporter line with six glucocorticoid response elements used to promote expression of a short half-life green fluorescent protein following glucocorticoid receptor activation. Herein, we document the ability of this reporter line to respond to both chronic and acute exogenous glucocorticoid treatment. The green fluorescent protein expression in response to transgene activation was high in a variety of tissues including the brain, and provided single cell resolution in the effected regions. The specificity of these responses is demonstrated using the partial agonist mifepristone and mutation of the glucocorticoid receptor. Importantly, the reporter line also modeled the temporal dynamics of endogenous stress response signaling, including the increased production of the glucocorticoid cortisol following hyperosmotic stress and the fluctuations of basal cortisol concentrations with the circadian rhythm. Taken together, these results characterize our newly developed reporter line for elucidating environmental or genetic modifiers of stress response signaling, which may provide insights to the neuronal mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder.