van der Vaart, M., and Schaaf, M.J. (2009) Naturally occurring C-terminal splice variants of nuclear receptors. Nuclear receptor signaling. 7:e007.
Alternative mRNA splicing in the region encoding the C-terminus of nuclear receptors results in receptor variants lacking the entire ligand-binding domain (LBD), or a part of it, and instead contain a sequence of splice variant-specific C-terminal amino acids. A total of thirteen such splice variants have been shown to occur in vertebrates, and at least nine occur in humans. None of these receptor variants appear to be able to bind endogenous ligands and to induce transcription on promoters containing the response element for the respective canonical receptor variant. Interestingly, ten of these C-terminal splice variants have been shown to display dominant-negative activity on the transactivational properties of their canonical equivalent. Research on most of these splice variants has been limited, and the dominant-negative effect of these receptor variants has only been demonstrated in reporter assays in vitro, using transiently transfected receptors and reporter constructs. Therefore, the in vivo function and relevance of most C-terminal splice variants remains unclear. By reviewing the literature on the human glucocorticoid receptor β-isoform (hGRβ), we show that the dominant-negative effect of hGRβ is well established using more physiologically relevant readouts. The hGR β-isoform may alter gene transcription independent from the canonical receptor and increased hGRβ levels correlate with glucocorticoid resistance and the occurrence of several immune-related diseases. Thus, available data suggests that C-terminal splice variants of nuclear receptors act as dominant-negative inhibitors of receptor-mediated signaling in vivo, and that aberrant expression of these isoforms may be involved in the pathogenesis of a variety of diseases.
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