The biochemistry of foreign compound metabolism and the roles played by individual cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes in drug metabolism and in the toxification and detoxification of xenochemicals prevalent in the environment are important areas of molecular pharmacology and toxicology that have been widely studied over the past decade. Important advances in our understanding of the mechanisms through which foreign chemicals impact on these P450-dependent metabolic processes have been made during the past 2 years with several key discoveries relating to the mechanisms through which xenochemicals induce the expression of hepatic P450 enzymes. Roles for three "orphan" nuclear receptor superfamily members, designated CAR, PXR, and PPAR, in respectively mediating the induction of hepatic P450s belonging to families CYP2, CYP3, and CYP4 in response to the prototypical inducers phenobarbital (CAR), pregnenolone 16alpha-carbonitrile and rifampicin (PXR), and clofibric acid (PPAR) have now been established. Two other nuclear receptors, designated LXR and FXR, which are respectively activated by oxysterols and bile acids, also play a role in liver P450 expression, in this case regulation of P450 cholesterol 7alpha-hydroxylase, a key enzyme of bile acid biosynthesis. All five P450-regulatory nuclear receptors belong to the same nuclear receptor gene family (family NR1), share a common heterodimerization partner, retinoid X-receptor (RXR), and are subject to cross-talk interactions with other nuclear receptors and with a broad range of other intracellular signaling pathways, including those activated by certain cytokines and growth factors. Endogenous ligands of each of those nuclear receptors have been identified and physiological receptor functions are emerging, leading to the proposal that these receptors may primarily serve to modulate hepatic P450 activity in response to endogenous dietary or hormonal stimuli. Accordingly, P450 induction by xenobiotics may in some cases lead to a perturbation of endogenous regulatory circuits with associated pathophysiological consequences.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.