Steroid hormones are important endocrine signalling molecules controlling reproduction, development, metabolism, salt balance and specialized cellular responses, such as inflammation and immunity. They are lipophilic in character and act by binding to intracellular receptor proteins. These receptors function as ligand-activated transcription factors, switching on or off networks of genes in response to a specific hormone signal. The receptor proteins have a conserved domain organization, comprising a C-terminal LBD (ligand-binding domain), a hinge region, a central DBD (DNA-binding domain) and a highly variable NTD (N-terminal domain). The NTD is structurally flexible and contains surfaces for both activation and repression of gene transcription, and the strength of the transactivation response has been correlated with protein length. Recent evidence supports a structural and functional model for the NTD that involves induced folding, possibly involving alpha-helix structure, in response to protein-protein interactions and structure-stabilizing solutes.