The alternation/deficiency in activation-3 (ADA3) is an essential component of the human p300/CBP-associated factor (PCAF) and yeast Spt-Ada-Gcn5-acetyltransferase (SAGA) histone acetyltransferase complexes. These complexes facilitate transactivation of target genes by association with transcription factors and modification of local chromatin structure. It is known that the yeast ADA3 is required for nuclear receptor (NR)-mediated transactivation in yeast cells; however, the role of mammalian ADA3 in NR signaling remains elusive. In this study, we have investigated how the human (h) ADA3 regulates retinoic acid receptor (RAR) α-mediated transactivation. We show that hADA3 interacts directly with RARα in a hormone-dependent manner and this interaction contributes to RARα transactivation. Intriguingly, this interaction involves classical LxxLL motifs in hADA3, as demonstrated by both 'loss' and 'gain' of function mutations, as well as a functional coactivator pocket of the receptor. Additionally, we show that hADA3 associates with RARα target gene promoter in a hormone-dependent manner and ADA3 knockdown impairs RARβ2 expression. Furthermore, a structural model was established to illustrate an interaction network within the ADA3/RARα complex. These results suggest that hADA3 is a bona fide transcriptional coactivator for RARα, acting through a conserved mechanism involving direct contacts between NR boxes and the receptor's co-activator pocket.
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