Indexed on: 30 Jun '15Published on: 30 Jun '15Published in: Biochemical Pharmacology
The human pregnane X receptor (hPXR), a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, senses xenobiotics and controls the transcription of genes encoding drug-metabolizing enzymes and transporters. The regulation of hPXR's transcriptional activation of its target genes is important for xenobiotic detoxification and endobiotic metabolism, and hPXR dysregulation can cause various adverse drug effects. Studies have implicated the putative phosphorylation site serine 350 (Ser(350)) in regulating hPXR transcriptional activity, but the mechanism of regulation remains elusive. Here we investigated the transactivation of hPXR target genes in vitro and in vivo by hPXR with a phosphomimetic mutation at Ser(350) (hPXR(S350D)). The S350D phosphomimetic mutation reduced the endogenous expression of cytochrome P450 3A4 (an hPXR target gene) in HepG2 and LS180 cells. Biochemical assays and structural modeling revealed that Ser(350) of hPXR is crucial for formation of the hPXR-retinoid X receptor alpha (RXRα) heterodimer. The S350D mutation abrogated heterodimerization in a ligand-independent manner, impairing hPXR-mediated transactivation. Further, in a novel humanized transgenic mouse model expressing the hPXR(S350D) transgene, we demonstrated that the S350D mutation alone is sufficient to impair hPXR transcriptional activity in mouse liver. This transgenic mouse model provides a unique tool to investigate the regulation and function of hPXR, including its non-genomic function, in vivo. Our finding that phosphorylation regulates hPXR activity has implications for development of novel hPXR antagonists and for safety evaluation during drug development.