The estrogen receptor (ER) modulates transcription by forming complexes with other proteins and then binding to the estrogen response element (ERE). We have identified a novel interaction of this receptor with the POU transcription factors Brn-3a and Brn-3b which was independent of ligand binding. By pull-down assays and the yeast two-hybrid system, the POU domain of Brn-3a and Brn-3b was shown to interact with the DNA-binding domain of the ER. Brn-3–ER interactions also affect transcriptional activity of an ERE-containing promoter, such that in estradiol-stimulated cells, Brn-3b strongly activated the promoter via the ERE, while Brn-3a had a mild inhibitory effect. The POU domain of Brn-3b which interacts with the ER was sufficient to confer this activation potential, and the change of a single amino acid in the first helix of the POU homeodomain of Brn-3a to its equivalent in Brn-3b can change the mild repressive effect of Brn-3a to a stimulatory Brn-3b-like effect. These observations and their implications for transcriptional regulation by the ER are discussed
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