Nuclear receptors (NRs) activate gene transcription by binding to specific enhancer elements and recruiting coactivators of the p160 family to promoters of target genes. The p160 coactivators in turn enhance transcription by recruiting secondary coactivators, including histone acetyltransferases such as CREB-binding protein (CBP) and p300/CBP-associated factor (p/CAF), as well as the recently identified protein methyltransferase, coactivator-associated arginine methyltransferase 1 (CARM1). In the current study, protein arginine methyltransferase 1 (PRMT1), another arginine-specific protein methyltransferase that shares a region of high homology with CARM1, was also found to act as a coactivator for NRs. PRMT1, like CARM1, bound to the C-terminal AD2 activation domain of p160 coactivators and thereby enhanced the activity of NRs in transient transfection assays. The shape of the graphs of reporter gene activity versus the amounts of CARM1 or PRMT1 expression vector indicated a cooperative relationship between coactivator concentration and activity. Moreover, CARM1 and PRMT1 acted in a synergistic manner to enhance reporter gene activation by both hormone-dependent and orphan NRs. The synergy was most evident at low levels of transfected NR expression vectors, where activation of reporter genes was almost completely dependent on the presence of NR and all three exogenously supplied coactivators, i.e. GRIP1, CARM1, and PRMT1. In contrast, with the higher levels of NR expression vectors typically used in transient transfection assays, NR activity was much less dependent on the combination of coactivators, suggesting that target gene activation occurs by different mechanisms at high versus low cellular concentrations of NR. Because multiple coactivators are presumably required to mediate transcriptional activation of native genes in vivo, the low-NR conditions may provide a more physiologically relevant assay for coactivator function.
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