The steroid and xenobiotic receptor (SXR) (also known as pregnane X receptor or PXR) is a nuclear hormone receptor activated by a diverse array of endogenous hormones, dietary steroids, pharmaceutical agents, and xenobiotic compounds. SXR has an enlarged, flexible, hydrophobic ligand binding domain (LBD) which is remarkably divergent across mammalian species and SXR exhibits considerable differences in its pharmacology among mammals. The broad response profile of SXR has led to the development of "the steroid and xenobiotic sensor hypothesis". SXR has been established as a xenobiotic sensor that coordinately regulates xenobiotic clearance in the liver and intestine via induction of genes involved in drug and xenobiotic metabolism. In the past few years, research has revealed new and mostly unsuspected roles for SXR in modulating inflammation, bone homeostasis, vitamin D metabolism, lipid homeostasis, energy homeostasis and cancer. The identification of SXR as a xenobiotic sensor has provided an important tool for studying new mechanisms through which diet, chemical exposure, and environment ultimately impact health and disease. The discovery and pharmacological development of new PXR modulators might represent an interesting and innovative therapeutic approach to combat various diseases.