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LXRα (nuclear receptor subfamily 1, group H, member 3)
Symbol NR1H3
Entrez 10062
HUGO 7966
OMIM 602423
RefSeq NM_005693
UniProt Q13133
Other data
LXRβ (nuclear receptor subfamily 1, group H, member 2)
Symbol NR1H2
Alt. symbols UNR
Entrez 7376
HUGO 7965
OMIM 600380
RefSeq NM_007121
UniProt P55055
Other data

The liver X receptor (LXR) is a member of the nuclear receptor family of transcription factors and is closely related to nuclear receptors such as PPAR, FXR and RXR. Liver X receptors (LXRs) are important regulators of cholesterol, fatty acid, and glucose homeostasis. LXRs were earlier classfied as orphan nuclear receptors, however, upon discovery of endogenous oxysterols as ligands, they were subsequently deorphanized.

Two isoforms of LXR have been identified and are referred to as LXRα and LXRβ. The liver X receptors are classified into subfamily 1 (thyroid hormone receptor-like) of the nuclear receptor superfamily, and are given the nuclear receptor nomenclature symbols NR1H3 (LXRα) and NR1H2 (LXRβ) respectively.

LXRα and LXRβ were discovered separately between 1994-1995. LXRα isoform was independently identified by two groups and initially named RLD-1[1] and LXR,[2] whereas four groups identified the LXRβ isoform and called it UR,[3] NER,[4] OR-1,[5] and RIP-15.[6] The human LXRα gene is located on chromosome 11p11.2, while the LXRβ gene is located on chromosome 19q13.3.



While the expression of LXRα and LXRβ in various tissues somewhat overlap, the tissue distribution pattern of these two isoforms overall differ considerably. LXRα expression is restricted to liver, kidney, intestine, fat tissue, macrophages, lung, and spleen and is highest in liver, hence the name liver X receptor α (LXRα). LXRβ is expressed in almost all tissues and organs, hence the early name UR (ubiquitous receptor).[7] The different pattern of expression suggests that LXRα and LXRβ have different roles in regulating physiological function.


LXRα and LXRβ form heterodimers with the obligate partner 9-cis retinoic acid receptor (RXR). The LXR/RXR heterodimer can be activated with either an LXR agonist (oxysterols) or a RXR agonist (9-cis-retinoic acid). Oxysterols, the oxygenated derivatives of cholesterol, such as 22(R)-hydroxycholesterol,24(S)-hydroxycholesterol, 27-hydroxycholesterol, and cholestenoic acid, are the natural ligands for LXR.[8][9][10][11] After activation, LXR translocates to the nucleus and binds to LXR response element (LXRE), usually a variant of the idealized sequence AGGTCAN4AGGTCA, in the promoters of LXRs' target genes. Some synthetic LXR agonists have been developed, including nonsteroidal LXR agonists T0901317[12] and GW3965.

Target Genes

Target genes of LXRs are involved in cholesterol and lipid metabolism regulation,[13] including:

Roles of LXR in metabolism

The importance of LXRs in physiological lipid and cholesterol metabolism suggests that they may influence the development of metabolic disorders such as hyper lipidemia and atherosclerosis. Evidence for this idea has been observed by recent studies that linked LXR activity to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. LXRα knockout mice are healthy when fed with a low-cholesterol diet. However, LXRα knockout mice develop enlarged fatty livers, degeneration of liver cells, high cholesterol levels in liver, and impaired liver function when fed a high-cholesterol diet.[14] LXRβ knockout mice are unaffected by a high-cholesterol diet, suggesting that LXRα and LXRβ have separate roles. LXRs regulate fatty acid synthesis by modulating the expression of sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c (SREBP-1c).[15][16] LXRs also regulate lipid homeostasis in the brain. LXRα and LXRβ double knockout mice develop neurodegenerative changes in brain tissue.[17] LXRβ knockout mice results in adult-onset motor neuron degeneration in male mice.[18]

Clinical significance of LXR agonists

LXR agonists are effective for treatment of murine models of atherosclerosis, diabetes, anti-inflammation, and Alzheimer's disease. Treatment with LXR agonists (hypocholamide, T0901317, GW3965, or N,N-dimethyl-3beta-hydroxy-cholenamide (DMHCA)) lowers the cholesterol level in serum and liver and inhibits the development of atherosclerosis in murine disease models.[19][20][21][22] Synthetic LXR agonist GW3965 improves glucose tolerance in a murine model of diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance by regulating genes involved in glucose metabolism in liver and adipose tissue.<[23] GW3965 inhibits the expression of inflammatory mediators in cultured macrophage and inflammation in mice.[24] LXR agonists (T0901317, 22(R)-hydroxycholesterol, and 24(S)-hydroxycholesterol) were also shown to suppress the proliferation of prostate cancer and breast cancer cells[25] as well as delay progression of prostate cancer from androgen-dependent status to androgen-independent status.[26] Treatment with T0901317 decreases amyloidal beta production in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model.<[27] However, both T0901317 and GW3965 have been reported to increase plasma and liver triglycerides in some mice models, indicating that T0901317 and GW3965 may not be a good candidate for a therapeutic agent. Developing new potent and effective LXR agonists without the undesirable side effects may be beneficial for clinical usage. In this regard, DMHCA was reported to reduce atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice without inducing hypertriglyceridemia and liver steatosis.[22] When lipogenesis is increased by pharmacological activation of the liver X receptor, hepatic VLDL production is increased 2.5-fold, and the liver produces large TG-rich VLDL particles. Interestingly, glucose induces expression of LXR target genes involved in cholesterol homeostasis like ABCA1 which is defective in Tangier disease. A common feature of many metabolic pathways is their control by retinoid X receptor (RXR) heterodimers. It is interesting to note that LXR heterodimerises with RXR. Promiscuous RXR also heterodimerises with PPAR members. PPAR-α plays a pivotal role in fatty acid catabolism in liver by upregulating the expression of numerous genes involved in mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. Thus RXR is a common partner of two nuclear receptors acting in opposite directions with regard to fatty acid metabolism. So both LXR and PPAR-α compete for the limited pool of RXR and this dynamic equilibrium determines the direction of lipid metabolism.[28]

The hexacyclic aromatic ketones, (-)anthrabenzoxocinone and (-)bischloroanthrabenzoxocinone ((-)-BABX) derived from a Streptomyces sp. have micromolar affinity for LXR-α.[29]


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  15. ^ Yoshikawa T, Shimano H, Amemiya-Kudo M, Yahagi N, Hasty AH, Matsuzaka T, Okazaki H, Tamura Y, Iizuka Y, Ohashi K, Osuga J, Harada K, Gotoda T, Kimura S, Ishibashi S, Yamada N (May 2001). "Identification of liver X receptor-retinoid X receptor as an activator of the sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1c gene promoter". Mol. Cell. Biol. 21 (9): 2991–3000. doi:10.1128/MCB.21.9.2991-3000.2001. PMID 11287605.  
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  18. ^ Andersson S, Gustafsson N, Warner M, Gustafsson JA (March 2005). "Inactivation of liver X receptor beta leads to adult-onset motor neuron degeneration in male mice". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 102 (10): 3857–62. doi:10.1073/pnas.0500634102. PMID 15738425.  
  19. ^ Alberti S, Schuster G, Parini P, Feltkamp D, Diczfalusy U, Rudling M, Angelin B, Björkhem I, Pettersson S, Gustafsson JA (March 2001). "Hepatic cholesterol metabolism and resistance to dietary cholesterol in LXRbeta-deficient mice". J. Clin. Invest. 107 (5): 565–73. doi:10.1172/JCI9794. PMID 11238557.  
  20. ^ Joseph SB, McKilligin E, Pei L, Watson MA, Collins AR, Laffitte BA, Chen M, Noh G, Goodman J, Hagger GN, Tran J, Tippin TK, Wang X, Lusis AJ, Hsueh WA, Law RE, Collins JL, Willson TM, Tontonoz P (May 2002). "Synthetic LXR ligand inhibits the development of atherosclerosis in mice". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 99 (11): 7604–9. doi:10.1073/pnas.112059299. PMID 12032330.  
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  22. ^ a b Kratzer A, Buchebner M, Pfeifer T, Becker TM, Uray G, Miyazaki M, Miyazaki-Anzai S, Ebner B, Chandak PG, Kadam RS, Calayir E, Rathke N, Ahammer H, Radovic B, Trauner M, Hoefler G, Kompella UB, Fauler G, Levi M, Levak-Frank S, Kostner GM, Kratky D (February 2009). "Synthetic LXR agonist attenuates plaque formation in apoE-/- mice without inducing liver steatosis and hypertriglyceridemia". J. Lipid Res. 50 (2): 312–26. doi:10.1194/jlr.M800376-JLR200. PMID 18812595.  
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  27. ^ Koldamova RP, Lefterov IM, Staufenbiel M, Wolfe D, Huang S, Glorioso JC, Walter M, Roth MG, Lazo JS (February 2005). "The liver X receptor ligand T0901317 decreases amyloid beta production in vitro and in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease". J. Biol. Chem. 280 (6): 4079–88. doi:10.1074/jbc.M411420200. PMID 15557325.  
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  29. ^ Herath KB, Jayasuriya H, Guan Z, Schulman M, Ruby C, Sharma N, MacNaul K, Menke JG, Kodali S, Galgoci A, Wang J, Singh SB (September 2005). "Anthrabenzoxocinones from Streptomyces sp. as liver X receptor ligands and antibacterial agents". J. Nat. Prod. 68 (9): 1437–40. doi:10.1021/np050176k. PMID 16180833.  

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