Proposed role of drug-metabolizing enzymes: regulation of steady state levels of the ligands that effect growth, homeostasis, differentiation, and neuroendocrine functions

Mol Endocrinol. 1991 Sep;5(9):1203-14. doi: 10.1210/mend-5-9-1203.


Every ligand known to bind to a receptor in the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily is involved in a variety of signal transduction pathways effecting growth, morphogenesis, homeostasis, proliferation, and neuroendocrine functions. Often these ligands are associated with increases in particular subsets of cytochromes P450 and other drug-metabolizing enzymes. Interestingly, certain of these enzymes participate in the metabolism (synthesis as well as degradation) of these ligands. It appears that genes coding for certain drug-metabolizing enzymes might have existed on this planet at least 1 billion years before the presence of plants, animals, and drugs. An early role for oxidative enzymes in prokaryotes most likely involved energy substrate utilization: insertion of oxygen into various inaccessible carbon and other food sources, thereby rendering them accessible to further metabolism. It is proposed that a later development of these "drug-metabolizing enzymes" in prokaryotes and early eukaryotes might be related to their metabolic ability to control the steady state levels of the ligands that modulate cell division, growth, morphogenesis, and mating, and that this role has diversified in numerous additional signal transduction pathways and exists today in all eukaryotes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Nucleus / physiology
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / physiology*
  • Inactivation, Metabolic / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology*
  • Receptors, Steroid / physiology
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / physiology
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System