Ligand-independent interactions of p160/steroid receptor coactivators and CREB-binding protein (CBP) with estrogen receptor-alpha: regulation by phosphorylation sites in the A/B region depends on other receptor domains.
Estrogen receptor (ER)alpha and ERbeta are transcription factors that can be activated by both ligand binding and growth factor signaling. Estradiol increases ER activity in part by enhancing interactions between its carboxy-terminal, ligand-binding domain (LBD) and the p160/SRC (steroid receptor coactivator) and p300/CBP (cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) binding protein) families of coactivators. In the absence of ligand and the LBD, these cofactors can also interact with the amino-terminal (A/B) domain of ERs in vitro. SRC-1 also enhances the ligand-independent activity of the full-length receptor. Both ligand-independent and estradiol-induced ER activity are increased by phosphorylation at specific serine (Ser) residues in the A/B domain (Ser104/106 and Ser118 in ERalpha). In the case of ERbeta, phosphorylation enhances the ligand-independent recruitment and action of SRC-1. We show here that unliganded ERalpha can activate endogenous gene expression in MCF-7 cells, and that this activation is mediated in part by a p160 coactivator. In transfected HeLa cells, we show that the full-length ERalpha can interact physically and functionally with p160/SRCs and CBP in the absence of ligand and that mutation of Ser104/106/118 affects these interactions. Accordingly, ERalpha dephosphorylation decreases its ligand-independent interaction with SRC-1 and CBP in vitro. In HeLa cells, both Ser104/106 and Ser118 impinge on SRC-1 action by two mechanisms: 1) a seemingly indirect effect on SRC-1 recruitment that requires other receptor domains in addition to the A/B, consistent with our finding that the ligand-independent interaction between the A/B and the LBD and its enhancement by SRC-1 depend in part on Ser104/106/118; and 2) an effect on SRC-1 coactivation that can be observed in the absence of the LBD. Ser104/106/118 can also affect coactivation by a subset of coactivators in the presence of hormone, albeit to a lesser extent than in its absence. Altogether, our observations suggest that the enhancement of ERalpha activity by p160/SRCs and CBP can be regulated by phosphorylation and stress the importance of using full-length receptors to assess the role of the activation function-1 in cofactor recruitment.