The nuclear receptor ligand-binding domain: a family-based structure analysis

Curr Med Chem. 2005;12(9):1001-16. doi: 10.2174/0929867053764699.


Nuclear receptors (NRs) are ligand-dependent transcription factors that play a central role in various physiological processes. The pharmaceutical industry has great interest in this gene-family for the discovery of novel or improved drugs for treatment of, for example, cancer, infertility, or diabetes. The usage of three-dimensional coordinates of protein structures to analyse and predict interactions with ligands is an important aspect of this process. All NR ligand-binding domains have a similar fold, which allows for comparison of the structures of their three main functional sites: the ligand-binding pocket, the cofactor-binding groove, and the dimerization interface. We performed an analysis of nearly one hundred NR ligand-binding domain structures, and identified the functionally important residues. The combined knowledge about the shape of the binding sites and the residues involved in the binding is important for drug design in two ways. First, knowledge about the location of residues that interact with a ligand in all crystal structures or in certain subfamilies assists in the design and docking of drugs. Second, similarities and differences in the residue types of the most frequent ligand- and cofactor-binding residues provide insight about potential cross-reactivity of ligands or cofactors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Dimerization
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / chemistry*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear