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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The farnesoid X receptor controls gene expression in a ligand- and promoter-selective fashion.

Farnesoid X receptor (FXR) is a nuclear receptor for bile acids. Ligand activated-FXR regulates transcription of genes to allow feedback control of bile acid synthesis and secretion. There are five major bile acids in humans. We have previously demonstrated that lithocholate acts as an FXR antagonist, and here we show that the other four bile acids, chenodeoxycholate (CDCA), deoxycholate (DCA), cholate (CA), and ursodeoxycholate (UDCA), act as selective FXR agonists in a gene-specific fashion. In an in vitro coactivator association assay, CDCA fully activated FXR, whereas CA partially activated FXR and DCA and UDCA had negligible activities. Similar results were also obtained from a glutathione S-transferase pull-down assay in which only CDCA and the synthetic FXR agonist GW4064 significantly increased the interaction of SRC-1 with FXR. In FXR transactivation assays with a bile salt export pump (BSEP) promoter-driven luciferase construct, bile acids showed distinct abilities to activate the BSEP promoter: CDCA, DCA, CA, and UDCA increased luciferase activity by 25-, 20-, 18-, and 8-fold, respectively. Consistently, CDCA increased BSEP mRNA by 750-fold in HepG2 cells, whereas DCA, CA, and UDCA induced BSEP mRNA by 250-, 75-, and 15-fold, respectively. Despite the partial induction of BSEP mRNA, CA, DCA, and UDCA effectively repressed expression of cholesterol 7alpha-hydroxylase, another FXR target. We further showed that all four bile acids significantly increased FXR protein, suggesting the existence of an auto-regulatory loop in FXR signaling pathways. In conclusion, these results suggest that the binding of each bile acid results in a different FXR conformations, which in turn differentially regulates expression of individual FXR targets.[1]


  1. The farnesoid X receptor controls gene expression in a ligand- and promoter-selective fashion. Lew, J.L., Zhao, A., Yu, J., Huang, L., De Pedro, N., Peláez, F., Wright, S.D., Cui, J. J. Biol. Chem. (2004) [Pubmed]
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