We have previously examined, by alanine scanning mutagenesis, amino acids 515-535 of the estrogen receptor (ER) ligand binding domain to determine which of these residues are important in estradiol binding. Mutation at four sites that potentially lie along one face of an alpha-helix, Gly521, His524, Leu525, and Met528, all significantly impaired estradiol binding by the ER (Ekena, K., Weis, K. E., Katzenellenbogen, J. A., and Katzenellenbogen, B. S. (1996) J. Biol. Chem. 271, 20053-20059). In this report, we compare the pattern of residues that are important in the recognition of several structurally diverse estrogen agonists and antagonists (the synthetic nonsteroidal agonist hexestrol, an agonist derived from the mold metabolite zearalenone, P1496, and the partial agonist-antagonist trans-hydroxytamoxifen) with those that are predicted to contact estradiol in the receptor-ligand complex. Although there are some similarities in the pattern of residue recognition among all four ligands, each ligand showed distinct differences as well. Interestingly, alanine substitution at only one residue, the leucine at position 525, was found to inhibit binding of all the ligands tested. Another residue, His524, was found to be important in the recognition of three different agonists but not trans-hydroxytamoxifen (the only ligand lacking a second hydroxyl group). The recognition of estradiol and another agonist, P1496, was impaired by the G521A mutation, whereas ligand-induced activity by the two compounds that lack B- and C-rings, hexestrol and trans-hydroxytamoxifen, was unaffected. Our findings demonstrate that these ligands fit into the ER ligand binding pocket differently and that each contacts a distinct set of amino acids. The smaller ligands (estradiol and hexestrol) have a narrower footprint of interacting residues than the larger ligands (P1496 and trans-hydroxytamoxifen). This pattern of interaction is most consistent with the amino acids within this region being in contact with the portion of these ligands that corresponds to the D-ring end of estradiol. The interplay between the shape of an ER ligand and the residues that support its binding to ER may potentially underlie the selective actions of different ER ligands in various cell and promoter contexts.
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