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Biochemistry. 2007 Nov 27;46(47):13461-7. Epub 2007 Nov 6.

Ligand specificity of nuclear hormone receptors: sifting through promiscuity.

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Department of Pharmacology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-4965, USA.


The superfamily of nuclear hormone receptors includes transcription factors that play key roles in regulating multiple biological functions during embryonic development and in adult tissues, as well as in many disease states. The quintessential characteristic of nuclear receptors, and the basis for the name of the family, is that their transcriptional activities can be regulated by small molecules, usually comprised of hydrophobic compounds. However, the endogenous ligands for approximately half of the members of the nuclear receptor family are unknown, and these receptors are thus designated as "orphan receptors". One class of orphan receptors encompasses receptors that display a broad ligand selectivity; i.e., they can promiscuously bind to and may be activated by multiple ligands. This characteristic complicates the identification of physiologically meaningful ligands that activate these receptors in vivo. Here, we discuss a few examples of promiscuous receptors and outline strategies that may be employed in shedding light on the nature of bona fide ligands for such receptors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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