Multiple binding modes between HNF4α and the LXXLL motifs of PGC-1α lead to full activation

Geun Bae Rha, Guangteng Wu, Steven E. Shoelson, Young Chi Chi

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26 Scopus citations


Hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF4α) is a novel nuclear receptor that participates in a hierarchical network of transcription factors regulating the development and physiology of such vital organs as the liver, pancreas, and kidney. Among the various transcriptional coregulators with which HNF4α interacts, peroxisome proliferation-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) coactivator 1α (PGC-1α) represents a novel coactivator whose activation is unusually robust and whose binding mode appears to be distinct from that of canonical coactivators such as NCoA/SRC/p160 family members. To elucidate the potentially unique molecular mechanism of PGC-1α recruitment, we have determined the crystal structure of HNF4α in complex with a fragment of PGC-1α containing all three of its LXXLL motifs. Despite the presence of all three LXXLL motifs available for interactions, only one is bound at the canonical binding site, with no additional contacts observed between the two proteins. However, a close inspection of the electron density map indicates that the bound LXXLL motif is not a selected one but an averaged structure of more than one LXXLL motif. Further biochemical and functional studies show that the individual LXXLL motifs can bind but drive only minimal transactivation. Only when more than one LXXLL motif is involved can significant transcriptional activity be measured, and full activation requires all three LXXLL motifs. These findings led us to propose a model wherein each LXXLL motif has an additive effect, and the multiple binding modes by HNF4α toward the LXXLL motifs of PGC-1α could account for the apparent robust activation by providing a flexible mechanism for combinatorial recruitment of additional coactivators and mediators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35165-35176
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 11 2009
Externally publishedYes


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