CAR, the continuously advancing receptor, in drug metabolism and disease

Curr Drug Metab. 2005 Aug;6(4):329-39. doi: 10.2174/1389200054633899.


The detoxification and elimination of potentially toxic foreign and endogenous compounds depends on the concerted action of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes. Nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs) have emerged as key regulators of the expression of these enzymes and his review focuses on the xenosenor CAR (Constitutive Androstane Receptor, NR1I3). CAR is highly expressed in the liver and the small intestine, two key tissues expressing xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes, and mediates the induction of their expression by the widely used antiepileptic drug, phenobarbital (PB) and the potent synthetic inducer 1, 4-bis-(2-(3, 5, -dichloropyridyloxy)) benzene (TCPOBOP). TCPOBOP is an agonist ligand for CAR. PB induces its nuclear translocation, which results in increased expression of CAR target genes since, unlike the classical, ligand-dependent nuclear receptors, CAR is an apparently constitutive transactivator. This constitutive activity is inhibited by the inverse agonist ligands androstanol and androstenol. The CAR mediated induction of the expression of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes is generally protective, but can be deleterious if toxic metabolites are produced. CAR also has a protective role in the stress response elicited by hyperbilirubinemia, as well as lithocholic acid induced cholestasis. In addition, recent studies show that CAR activation disrupts thyroid hormone homeostasis. Finally, CAR activation promotes hepatocyte proliferation and blocks apoptosis, and is essential for the tumorigenesis induced by its activators PB and TCPOBOP. The role of CAR in endobiotic and xenobiotics metabolism has clinical implications in disease prevention, drug-drug interactions, and the development of better drug treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Constitutive Androstane Receptor
  • Disease*
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • Constitutive Androstane Receptor
  • NR1I3 protein, human
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Transcription Factors
  • Xenobiotics