Pregnane-x-receptor controls hepatic glucuronidation during pregnancy and neonatal development in humanized UGT1 mice

Hepatology. 2012 Aug;56(2):658-67. doi: 10.1002/hep.25671. Epub 2012 Jun 11.


In humanized UDP glucuronosyltransferase-1 (hUGT1) mice that express the entire UGT1 locus, the maternal hepatic UGT1A genes are dramatically induced 12-14 days after conception. Steroid induction of the UGT1A1 gene indicates that xenobiotic sensors, such as the pregnane X receptor (PXR) and constitutive androstane receptor (CAR), may underlie the induction process. In contrast, neonatal hUGT1 mice display severe hyperbilirubinemia, with limited expression of the UGT1A genes. This study identifies PXR as both a positive and negative regulator of the UGT1A1 gene. Pregnancy hormones, in particular the glucocorticoids, target PXR as a positive regulator of human glucuronidation. Employing reverse genetics, where PXR has been genetically deleted, hUGT1/Pxr(-/-) mice show limited induction of the liver UGT1A genes during pregnancy, whereas the exact opposite occurs in newborn mice. Neonatal hUGT1 mice show delayed expression of hepatic UGT1A1 and are severely hyperbilirubinemic. However, in hUGT1/Pxr(-/-) mice, hyperbilirubinemia is greatly reduced due to induction of hepatic UGT1A1. Thus, PXR serves to repress UGT1A1 gene expression during development. Transcriptional silencing of the UGT1A1 gene was relieved in neonatal hUGT1 hepatocytes through interruption of PXR by small interfering RNA.

Conclusion: PXR is a key regulator of pregnancy induced glucuronidation capacity in addition to modulating the severity of neonatal jaundice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Glucuronic Acid / metabolism*
  • Glucuronosyltransferase / genetics
  • Glucuronosyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Hepatocytes / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / metabolism*
  • Liver* / embryology
  • Liver* / growth & development
  • Liver* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / metabolism*
  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism*
  • Steroids / physiology


  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Steroids
  • Glucuronic Acid
  • UGT1A1 enzyme
  • Glucuronosyltransferase