Structure and function of the human nuclear xenobiotic receptor PXR

Curr Drug Metab. 2005 Aug;6(4):357-67. doi: 10.2174/1389200054633844.


The pregnane X receptor (PXR) is a member of the nuclear receptor family of ligand-regulated transcription factors. Like many former orphan nuclear receptors, it contains both DNA and ligand binding domains and binds to response elements in the regulatory regions of target genes as a heterodimer with RXRalpha. Unlike the vast majority of nuclear receptors, however, PXR responds to a wide variety of chemically distinct xenobiotics and endobiotics, regulating the expression of genes central to both drug and bile acid metabolism. We review the structural basis of PXR's promiscuity in ligand binding, its recruitment of transcriptional coregulators, its potential formation of higher-order nuclear receptor complexes, and its control of target gene expression. Structural flexibility appears to be central to the receptor's ability to conform to ligands that differ both in size and shape. We also discuss the clinical implications of PXR's role in the drug-drug interactions, cancer, and cholestatic liver disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA / metabolism
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Therapy
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / chemistry
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / drug effects
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology*
  • Receptors, Steroid / chemistry
  • Receptors, Steroid / drug effects
  • Receptors, Steroid / genetics*
  • Receptors, Steroid / physiology*
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Xenobiotics
  • DNA