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Drug Metabolism Letters


ISSN (Print): 1872-3128
ISSN (Online): 1874-0758

Research Article

Transactivation Assays that Identify Indirect and Direct Activators of Human Pregnane X Receptor (PXR, NR1I2) and Constitutive Androstane Receptor (CAR, NR1I3)

Author(s): Marija Pinne*, Elsa Ponce and Judy L. Raucy

Volume 11, Issue 2, 2017

Page: [128 - 137] Pages: 10

DOI: 10.2174/1872312812666171207113639


Background: Nuclear Receptors (NRs), including PXR and CAR, are presumed to be ligand-dependent transcription factors, but ligand binding is not an absolute requirement for activation. Indeed, many compounds activate PXR and CAR by indirect mechanisms. Detecting these indirect activators of specific nuclear receptors in vitro has been difficult. As NR activation of either or both PXR and CAR can lead to drug-drug interactions and adverse drug effects, false negatives obtained with screening tools incapable of detecting indirect activators could present liabilities.

Objective: The aim of this study was to establish assays that identify indirect activators of human PXR and CAR.

Methods: Commercially available human PXR and CAR transactivation assays were used for analyses.

Results: We show that transactivation assays containing full-length nuclear receptors with native promoters can identify indirect activators of human CAR and PXRwhen compared to those of commercially available assays containing only the LBD of PXR and CAR. Of these two assay systems, only human PXR and CAR1 assays with full-length receptors and native promoters are capable of detecting indirect and ligand activators. With this capability, several kinase inhibitors were identified that activate PXR and CAR by indirect mechanisms. Furthermore by using both the LBD and full-length receptors, phenobarbital and midostaurin were found to be direct and indirect activators of PXR while human CAR activation by phenobarbital occurs by indirect mechanisms only.

Conclusion: Cell based transactivation assays employing the full-length receptors and native promoters identify both direct and indirect activators of either or both human PXR and CAR.

Keywords: Ligand binding assays, full length nuclear receptor, PXR, CAR, indirect activators, phenobarbital, phosphorylation, DPX2 cells, nuclear receptors, drug-drug interactions.

Graphical Abstract

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