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Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Mar;120(3):399-405. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104426. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Bisphenol A and its analogues activate human pregnane X receptor.

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  • 1Graduate Center for Nutritional Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536, USA.



Bisphenol A (BPA) is a base chemical used extensively in many consumer products. BPA and its analogues are present in environmental and human samples. Many endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including BPA, have been shown to activate the pregnane X receptor (PXR), a nuclear receptor that functions as a master regulator of xenobiotic metabolism. However, the detailed mechanism by which these chemicals activate PXR remains unknown.


We investigated the mechanism by which BPA interacts with and activates PXR and examined selected BPA analogues to determine whether they bind to and activate PXR.


Cell-based reporter assays, in silico ligand-PXR docking studies, and site-directed mutagenesis were combined to study the interaction between BPA and PXR. We also investigated the influence of BPA and its analogues on the regulation of PXR target genes in human LS180 cells.


We found that BPA and several of its analogues are potent agonists for human PXR (hPXR) but do not affect mouse PXR activity. We identified key residues within hPXR's ligand-binding pocket that constitute points of interaction with BPA. We also deduced the structural requirements of BPA analogues that activate hPXR. BPA and its analogues can also induce PXR target gene expression in human LS180 cells.


The present study advances our understanding of the mechanism by which BPA interacts with and activates human PXR. Activation of PXR by BPA may explain some of the adverse effects of BPA in humans.

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