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Vol. 85, No. 3, 2007
Issue release date: June 2007
Neuroendocrinology 2007;85:186–192

Dynamics of Glucocorticoid Receptor and Mineralocorticoid Receptor: Implications from Live Cell Imaging Studies

Nishi M. · Kawata M.
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan

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Adrenal corticosteroids (cortisol in humans/corticosterone in rodents) readily enter the brain and exert markedly diverse effects, such as the stress response of target neural cells. These effects are regulated via two receptor systems, the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), both of which are ligand-inducible transcription factors. It is generally accepted that GR and MR predominantly reside in the cytoplasm in the absence of corticosterone (CORT), and are quickly translocated into the nucleus upon binding CORT. Then these receptors form dimers to bind hormone-responsive elements and regulate the expression of target genes. Given the different actions of MR and GR in the central nervous system, it is important to elucidate how the trafficking of these receptors between the cytoplasm and nucleus and their interaction are regulated by ligands or other molecules to exert transcriptional activity. However, the precise mechanisms of these processes are still not completely clarified. To address these issues, we have tried to observe more dynamic subcellular trafficking processes in living cells by employing a green fluorescent protein. In this review, we describe our recent studies of corticosteroid receptor dynamics in living cells focusing on three points: (1) the effects of a ligand, corticosteroid; (2) the carrier molecules involved in active nuclear transport, importins, and (3) the possibility of heterodimer formation. These studies demonstrate that GR and MR were quickly translocated from the cytoplasm to the nucleus after CORT treatment by associating with importin molecules. GR and MR differed in their response to the concentration of CORT in neural cells and non-neural cells. In the nuclear region, we detected GR-MR heterodimers, which were affected by changes in CORT concentrations in response to various hormonal milieus such as circadian rhythm and stress.

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