The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) share considerable structural and functional homology. Overlapping effects on epithelial sodium transport are observed in vivo; in vitro, both are able to bind and transactivate through a common hormone response element. This has led several investigators to suggest that specificity is conferred primarily by prereceptor mechanisms, and we have addressed this question using both in vitro and in vivo approaches. Although the MR has been regarded as less transcriptionally active than the GR in vitro, significant differences are observed when epithelial rather than fibroblast cell lines are used. These differences are mediated by the N-termini of the receptors. Activation of intracellular signaling pathways differentially modulates MR-versus GR- mediated transactivation. Although these studies identify mechanisms by which specificity may be achieved, they do not prove that this occurs in vivo. Such studies have been limited by an absence of MR-regulated genes. Known candidate aldosterone-responsive genes have been examined in the rat distal colon; the time course and the specificity of the response to a single parenteral dose of corticosteroid has been characterized. The epithelial sodium channel β and subunit genes are both up-regulated within 60 minutes by either MR or GR activation. Similar responses are observed for the serum and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase and channel-inducing factor genes. All four genes show clear and rapid up-regulation of their mRNA levels by aldosterone, which is paralleled by GR-mediated up-regulation of expression. While they are indeed aldosterone-responsive genes, genes that are uniquely aldosterone-regulated remain to be identified.
- Sodium transport