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Eur J Biochem. 2002 Oct;269(19):4896-904.

Identification of residues in the PXR ligand binding domain critical for species specific and constitutive activation.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Medical Nobel Institute, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


The cytochrome P450 family of enzymes has long been known to metabolize a wide range of compounds, including many of today's most common drugs. A novel nuclear receptor called PXR has been established as an activator of several of the cytochrome P450 genes, including CYP3A4. This enzyme is believed to account for the metabolism of more than 50% of all prescription drugs. PXR is therefore used as a negative selector target and discriminatory filter in preclinical drug development. In this paper we describe the design, construction and characterization by transient transfection of mutant receptors of the human and mouse PXR ligand binding domains. By modeling the human PXR ligand binding domain we have identified and mutated two polar residues in the putative ligand binding pocket which differ between the human and the mouse receptor. The first residue (Q285 in human/I282 in mouse) was mutated between the two species with the corresponding amino acids. These mutants showed that this residue is important for the species specific activation of PXR by the ligand pregnenolone-16alpha-carbonitrile (PCN), while having a less pronounced role in receptor activation by rifampicin. The second residue to be mutated (H407 in human/Q404 in mouse) unexpectedly proved to be important for the basal level of activation of PXR. The H407A mutant of the human receptor showed a high level of constitutive activity, while the Q404H mutant of the mouse receptor demonstrated a sharply decreased basal activity compared to wild-type.

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