Phenobarbital confers its diverse effects by activating the orphan nuclear receptor car

Drug Metab Rev. 2006;38(1-2):75-87. doi: 10.1080/03602530600569851.


In the early 1960s, phenobarbital (PB) was shown to induce hepatic drug metabolism and the induction was implicated in the molecular mechanism of drug tolerance development. Since then, it has become evident that PB not only induces drug metabolism, but also triggers pleiotropic effects on liver function, such as cell growth and communication, proliferation of the endoplasmic reticulum, tumor promotion, glucose metabolism, steroid/thyroid hormone metabolism, and bile acid synthesis. Upon activation by PB and numerous PB-type inducers, the nuclear receptor CAR mediates those pleiotropic actions by regulating various hepatic genes, utilizing multiple regulatory mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Constitutive Androstane Receptor
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Phenobarbital / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / agonists
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / drug effects*
  • Transcription Factors / agonists
  • Transcription Factors / drug effects*


  • Constitutive Androstane Receptor
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Transcription Factors
  • Phenobarbital