The Journal of biological chemistry

Response Element Composition Governs Correlations between Binding Site Affinity and Transcription in Glucocorticoid Receptor Feed-forward Loops.

PMID 26088140


Combinatorial gene regulation through feed-forward loops (FFLs) can bestow specificity and temporal control to client gene expression; however, characteristics of binding sites that mediate these effects are not established. We previously showed that the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and KLF15 form coherent FFLs that cooperatively induce targets such as the amino acid-metabolizing enzymes AASS and PRODH and incoherent FFLs exemplified by repression of MT2A by KLF15. Here, we demonstrate that GR and KLF15 physically interact and identify low affinity GR binding sites within glucocorticoid response elements (GREs) for PRODH and AASS that contribute to combinatorial regulation with KLF15. We used deep sequencing and electrophoretic mobility shift assays to derive in vitro GR binding affinities across sequence space. We applied these data to show that AASS GRE activity correlated (r(2) = 0.73) with predicted GR binding affinities across a 50-fold affinity range in transfection assays; however, the slope of the linear relationship more than doubled when KLF15 was expressed. Whereas activity of the MT2A GRE was even more strongly (r(2) = 0.89) correlated with GR binding site affinity, the slope of the linear relationship was sharply reduced by KLF15, consistent with incoherent FFL logic. Thus, GRE architecture and co-regulator expression together determine the functional parameters that relate GR binding site affinity to hormone-induced transcriptional responses. Utilization of specific affinity response functions and GR binding sites by FFLs may contribute to the diversity of gene expression patterns within GR-regulated transcriptomes.