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We have used ammonium sulphate precipitation followed by affinity chromatography to partially purify the estrogen receptor from Xenopus laevis liver which may control the genes for vitellogenin, the precursor of the egg yolk proteins. The rate at which receptor binds estradiol explains the kinetics of the induction of vitellogenin synthesis by estradiol, and the dissociation constant (0.5 X 10(-9) M) explains the concentration dependence of the response, which has a threshold of 10(-9) M estradiol, when 67% of the receptor is bound to estradiol. The estradiol concentration in male liver, which does not make vitellogenin, is 0.18 X 10(-9) M, sufficient to saturate 26% of the receptor, while in female liver, which makes vitellogenin continuously, the estradiol concentration is 3.5 X 10(-9) M, giving 88% saturation of receptor, suggesting that the proportion of occupied receptor decides whether or not the vitellogenin genes are active. In the physiological concentration range, estradiol modulates the level of receptor, which varies between 100 binding sites per nucleus in males and 440 in females, but artificially high concentrations of estradiol raise the level to approximately 1000 sites per nucleus. This suggests that the small increase in vitellogenin mRNA induced by physiological concentrations of estradiol is due to pre-existing receptor and that the much larger increases induced by very high concentrations depends on newly-synthesized receptor.
Injection of extracts from Xenopus liver nuclei that are enriched 2000 times in estradiol receptor into Xenopus oocytes induces transcription of the silent vitellogenin locus, which is activated in liver by estradiol, but not of the albumin locus, which is active in liver but suppressed by high levels of estradiol. Transcription initiates within the 5'-end region of the gene we have studied and probably continues into the 3' third. The activation seems to be very efficient, but most of the primary transcripts are probably rapidly and inaccurately processed. New proteins are also made and secreted by the oocytes.
Photochemical excitation of a simple derivative of oestradiol using light in the UV-A range totally, permanently and selectively inactivates the oestrogen receptor protein present in a Xenopus liver extract without affecting its overall size. Inactivation of the binding site proceeds to completion with simple, first-order kinetics. Inactivation is prevented by excess oestradiol but not by non-oestrogenic steroids. Using an in vitro transcription system, we show that the treatment eliminates transcription of vitellogenin genes, which are normally oestrogen-responsive, but has no effect on the transcription of albumin genes, which are not. Native receptor binds to the two imperfectly palindromic sequences in the vitellogenin B2 gene which together constitute an oestrogen-response unit. Its affinity for one sequence is greater than its affinity for the other, suggesting that a compulsory binding order operates when receptor interacts with the B2 gene. Photoinactivated receptor still binds to both sequences, but with reduced affinity. We also discuss our findings in the context of the current concern over the effects of UV-A on human tissues.