The A and B isoforms of the human progesterone receptor: two functionally different transcription factors encoded by a single gene.
In humans, the biological response to progesterone is mediated by two forms of the progesterone receptor (hPR-A; 94kDa and hPR-B; 114kDa). These two isoforms are transcribed from distinct, estrogen-inducible promoters within a single-copy progesterone receptor (PR) gene; the only difference between them is that the first 164 amino acids of hPR-B are absent in hPR-A. In most cell lines, hPR-A functions as a transcriptional repressor of progesterone-responsive promoters, whereas hPR-B functions as a transcriptional activator of the same genes. The observation, made in the early 1990s, that shorter isoforms of some transcriptional activators can act as transrepressors of the transcriptional activity of the larger isoforms, initiated a line of investigation that led to the discovery that hPR-A is a strong transrepressor of hPR-B activity. Interestingly, hPR-A also functions as a transdominant repressor of the transcriptional activity of the estrogen, glucocorticoid, androgen, and mineralocorticoid receptors. A specific inhibitory domain (ID) within hPR-A responsible for this activity has been mapped to the extreme amino terminus of the receptor. Interestingly, although this inhibitory domain is contained within both PR isoforms, its activity is manifest only in the context of hPR-A. The identification of a discrete inhibitory region within hPR-A, whose activity was masked in the context of hPR-B, suggests that these two receptor isoforms may interact with different proteins (transcription factors, co-activators, co-repressors) within the cell. In support of this hypothesis, we have recently observed that the co-repressor SMRT (silencing mediator of retinoid and thyroid receptors) interacts much more tightly with hPR-A than with hPR-B. This important finding led to the initial conclusion that the ability of hPR-A to repress hPR-B transcriptional activity could occur as a consequence of hPR-B/A heterodimerization, where the presence of SMRT in the complex could prevent transcriptional activation. The observation, however, that hPR-A also inhibits human estrogen receptor (hER) transcriptional activity, a receptor with which hPR-A is not able to heterodimerize, suggests that there must be additional complexity. This chapter outlines what is known about the mechanism of action of hPR-A and hPR-B and how this knowledge has enhanced our understanding of PR pharmacology.
Giangrande, PH; McDonnell, DP
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