Specific and overlapping functions of the nuclear hormone receptors CAR and PXR in xenobiotic response

Pharmacogenomics J. 2002;2(2):117-26. doi: 10.1038/sj.tpj.6500087.


The products of the cytochrome P450 (CYP) genes play an important role in the detoxification of xenobiotics and environmental contaminants, and many foreign chemicals or xenobiotics can induce their expression. We have previously shown that the nuclear hormone receptor CAR (Constitutive Androstane Receptor, NR113) mediates the well studied induction of CYP2B10 gene expression by phenobarbital (PB) and 1, 4-bis-[2-(3, 5,-dichloropyridyloxy)] benzene (TCPOBOP). We have used the CAR knockout mouse model to explore the broader functions of this xenobiotic receptor. In addition to the liver, CAR is expressed in the epithelial cells of the villi in the small intestine, and this expression is required for CYP2B10 induction in response to PB and TCPOBOP in those cells. In agreement with previous observations that CAR can bind to regulatory elements in CYP3A genes, CAR is also required for induction of expression of CYP3A11 in response to both PB and TCPOBOP in liver. In males, CAR is also required for induction of liver CYP2A4 expression. In wild type animals, pretreatment with the CAR inverse agonist androstenol blocks the response of both the CYP2B10 and CYP3A11 genes to PB and TCPOBOP, and decreases basal CYP3A11 expression. CAR is also required for the response of CYP2B10 to several additional xenobiotic inducers, including chlorpromazine, clotrimazole and dieldrin, but not dexamethasone, an agonist for both the xenobiotic receptor PXR (Pregnane X Receptor NR112) and the glucocorticoid receptor. Chlorpromazine induction of CYP3A11 is also absent in CAR-deficient animals, but the responses to clotrimazole and dieldrin are retained, indicating that both of these inducers can also activate PXR (Pregnane X Receptor NR112). We conclude that CAR has broad functions in xenobiotic responses. Some are specific to CAR but others, including induction of the important drug metabolizing enzyme CYP3A, overlap with those of PXR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / biosynthesis
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / genetics
  • Constitutive Androstane Receptor
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / deficiency
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology*
  • Receptors, Steroid / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Steroid / genetics
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / biosynthesis
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Transcription Factors / deficiency
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacology*


  • Constitutive Androstane Receptor
  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Transcription Factors
  • Xenobiotics
  • Steroid Hydroxylases
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases
  • Cyp2b10 protein, mouse
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2