Nuclear hormone receptors for heme: REV-ERBalpha and REV-ERBbeta are ligand-regulated components of the mammalian clock

Mol Endocrinol. 2008 Jul;22(7):1509-20. doi: 10.1210/me.2007-0519. Epub 2008 Jan 24.


The nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs), REV-ERBalpha and REV-ERBbeta, regulate a number of physiological functions including the circadian rhythm, lipid metabolism, and cellular differentiation. These two receptors lack the activation function-2 region that is associated with the ability of NHRs to recruit coactivators and activate target gene transcription. These NHRs have been characterized as constitutive repressors of transcription due to their lack of an identified ligand and their strong ability to recruit the corepressor, nuclear receptor corepressor. Recently, the porphyrin heme was demonstrated to function as a ligand for both REV-ERBs. Heme binds directly to the ligand-binding domain and regulates the ability of these NHRs to recruit nuclear receptor corepressor to target gene promoters. This review focuses on the physiological roles that these two receptors play and the implications of heme functioning as their ligand. The prospect that these NHRs, now known to be regulated by small molecule ligands, may be targets for development of drugs for treatment of diseases associated with aberrant circadian rhythms including metabolic and psychiatric disorders as well as cancer is also addressed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Heme / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group D, Member 1
  • Oscillometry
  • Porphyrins / chemistry
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Ligands
  • NR1D1 protein, human
  • NR1D2 protein, human
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group D, Member 1
  • Porphyrins
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Heme