Predicting Rat and Human Pregnane X Receptor Activators Using Bayesian Classification Models

Chem Res Toxicol. 2016 Oct 17;29(10):1729-1740. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.6b00227. Epub 2016 Sep 23.


The pregnane X receptor (PXR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that acts as a master regulator of metabolizing enzymes and transporters. To avoid adverse drug-drug interactions and diseases such as steatosis and cancers associated with PXR activation, identifying drugs and chemicals that activate PXR is of crucial importance. In this work, we developed ligand-based predictive computational models for both rat and human PXR activation, which allowed us to identify potentially harmful chemicals and evaluate species-specific effects of a given compound. We utilized a large publicly available data set of nearly 2000 compounds screened in cell-based reporter gene assays to develop Bayesian quantitative structure-activity relationship models using physicochemical properties and structural descriptors. Our analysis showed that PXR activators tend to be hydrophobic and significantly different from nonactivators in terms of their physicochemical properties such as molecular weight, logP, number of rings, and solubility. Our Bayesian models, evaluated by using 5-fold cross-validation, displayed a sensitivity of 75% (76%), specificity of 76% (75%), and accuracy of 89% (89%) for human (rat) PXR activation. We identified structural features shared by rat and human PXR activators as well as those unique to each species. We compared rat in vitro PXR activation data to in vivo data by using DrugMatrix, a large toxicogenomics database with gene expression data obtained from rats after exposure to diverse chemicals. Although in vivo gene expression data pointed to cross-talk between nuclear receptor activators that is captured only by in vivo assays, overall we found broad agreement between in vitro and in vivo PXR activation. Thus, the models developed here serve primarily as efficient initial high-throughput in silico screens of in vitro activity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism*


  • Ligands
  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • Receptors, Steroid