The screening of new drug candidates for nuclear receptor activation can identify agents with the potential to produce drugdrug interactions or elicit adverse drug effects. The nuclear receptors of interest are those that control the expression of drug metabolizing enzymes and drug transporters, and include the constitutive androstane receptor (CAR, NR1I3), the pregnane X receptor (PXR, NR1I2) and the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). This review will focus on the methods currently used to assess activation of these receptors. Assessment of nuclear receptor activation can be accomplished using direct or indirect approaches. Indirect methods quantify specific gene products that result from nuclear receptor activation while direct approaches measure either the binding of ligands to the receptors or the transcriptional events produced by ligand binding. Assays that directly quantify nuclear receptor activation are growing in popularity and, importantly, are amenable to high throughput screening (HTS). Several ligand binding assays are currently being utilized, including radioligand competition binding, where compounds compete with radiolabelled ligand for binding to PXR or CAR, such as the scintillation proximity binding assay that measures the reaction of ligands with receptor-coated beads. A fluorescence resonance energy transfer assay has also been developed, where the fluorescent signal is generated via the ligand-dependent interaction between the fluorescently- labeled ligand binding domain of a nuclear receptor and co-activator proteins. Other in vitro activation assays include transient- and stably-transfected cell lines incorporating an expression vector for PXR, CAR or AhR plus a reporter gene vector containing response elements. The methods focused on in this review will be limited to the more direct in vitro approaches that are amenable to high throughput screening.
Keywords: Constitutive androstane receptor, pregnane X receptor, P450 enzymes, stable cell lines, transactivation assays, fluorescence polarization assays, scintillation proximity assays, yeast two-hybrid, TR-FRET, AhR, HTS, PXR, CAR, PBREM, CITCO, DNA, DREs, FP, SPA, Fluorescence Polarization, FRET, SRC-1, mPXR, Transactivation, LBD, Cell Lines, CYP3A4, CYP1A2, EC50 values, NRs, hCAR1, hCAR3
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