We have studied the role of phosphorylation of the human oestrogen receptor (hOR; otherwise known as hER) at serine-167, which has been identified previously as the major oestrogen-induced phosphorylation site. We have tested transactivation by the hOR in yeast and cell-free transcription assays, and shown that mutation of serine-167 results in a 70% decrease in hOR-dependent transcription. Furthermore we explored the functional significance of phosphorylation at this site by hormone binding and DNA binding. DNA binding affinity was 10-fold lower when serine-167 was changed to alanine in the hOR. Cell-free transcription experiments showed that casein kinase II is the enzyme responsible for oestradiol-dependent phosphorylation of the hOR at serine-167. This suggests that a conformational change of the hOR must occur upon hormone binding that exposes serine-167 to casein kinase II, resulting in transactivation of oestrogen-responsive genes.

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