Nuclear receptors constitute a large family of ligand-modulated transcription factors that mediate cellular responses to small lipophilic molecules, including steroids, retinoids, fatty acids, and exogenous ligands. Orphan nuclear receptors with no known endogenous ligands have been discovered to regulate drug-mediated induction of cytochromes P450 (CYP), the major drug-metabolizing enzymes. Here, we report the cloning of an orphan nuclear receptor from chicken, termed chicken xenobiotic receptor (CXR), that is closely related to two mammalian xenobiotic-activated receptors, the pregnane X receptor (PXR) and the constitutive androstane receptor (CAR). Expression of CXR is restricted to tissues where drug induction of CYPs predominantly occurs, namely liver, kidney, small intestine, and colon. Furthermore, CXR binds to a previously identified phenobarbital-responsive enhancer unit (PBRU) in the 5'-flanking region of the chicken CYP2H1 gene. A variety of drugs, steroids, and chemicals activate CXR in CV-1 monkey cell transactivation assays. The same agents induce PBRU-dependent reporter gene expression and CYP2H1 transcription in a chicken hepatoma cell line. These results provide convincing evidence for a major role of CXR in the regulation of CYP2H1 and add a member to the family of xenobiotic-activated orphan nuclear receptors.