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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Jan;1821(1):57-69. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2011.04.003. Epub 2011 Apr 16.

Modulation of RXR function through ligand design.

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Departamento de Química Orgánica, Facultade de Química, Universidade de Vigo, Spain.


As the promiscuous partner of heterodimeric associations, retinoid X receptors (RXRs) play a key role within the Nuclear Receptor (NR) superfamily. Some of the heterodimers (PPAR/RXR, LXR/RXR, FXR/RXR) are "permissive" as they become transcriptionally active in the sole presence of either an RXR-selective ligand ("rexinoid") or a NR partner ligand. In contrast, "non-permissive" heterodimers (including RAR/RXR, VDR/RXR and TR/RXR) are unresponsive to rexinoids alone but these agonists superactivate transcription by synergizing with partner agonists. Despite their promiscuity in heterodimer formation and activation of multiple pathways, RXR is a target for drug discovery. Indeed, a rexinoid is used in the clinic for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. In addition to cancer RXR modulators hold therapeutical potential for the treatment of metabolic diseases. The modulation potential of the rexinoid (as agonist or antagonist ligand) is dictated by the precise conformation of the ligand-receptor complexes and the nature and extent of their interaction with co-regulators, which determine the specific physiological responses through transcription modulation of cognate gene networks. Notwithstanding the advances in this field, it is not yet possible to predict the correlation between ligand structure and physiological response. We will focus on this review on the modulation of PPARγ/RXR and LXR/RXR heterodimer activities by rexinoids. The genetic and pharmacological data from animal models of insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity demonstrate that RXR agonists and antagonists have promise as anti-obesity agents. However, the treatment with rexinoids raises triglycerides levels, suppresses the thyroid hormone axis, and induces hepatomegaly, which has complicated the development of these compounds as therapeutic agents for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. The discovery of PPARγ/RXR and LXR/RXR heterodimer-selective rexinoids, which act differently than PPARγ or LXR agonists, might overcome some of these limitations.

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