Steroid receptor co-activator (SRC1) is one of a number of transcriptional co-activators that are capable of potentiating the activity of nuclear receptors including the oestrogen receptor (ER). Here we report that two isoforms, SRC1a and SRC1e, which diverge at their C-termini, are functionally distinct as they differ in their abilities to enhance the activity of the ER in intact cells. SRC1e enhanced the ability of the ER to stimulate transcription to a greater extent than SRC1a, which had negligible effects on certain promoters. To elucidate the basis of this functional difference, we compared the nuclear receptor-binding properties and mapped the transcriptional activation domains in the two SRC1 isoforms. Both isoforms share a triplet of nuclear receptor-binding motifs (LXXLL motifs) for binding to functional ER dimers, and an activation domain which co-localizes with the CBP-binding domain, while SRC1a contains a unique LXXLL motif in its C-terminus. Although this LXXLL motif increases the affinity for the ER in vitro, it does not appear to be responsible for the functional difference between the two isoforms. This difference is due to a second activation domain that is CBP independent and is suppressed in the SRC1a isoform. Thus, SRC1 exists as functionally distinct isoforms which are likely to play different roles in ER-mediated transcription.
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