Farnesyl pyrophosphate is a novel transcriptional activator for a subset of nuclear hormone receptors

Sharmistha Das, Matthieu Schapira, Marjana Tomic-Canic, Ritu Goyanka, Timothy Cardozo, Herbert H. Samuels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


In silico docking of a chemical library with the ligand-binding domain of thyroid hormone nuclear receptor-β (TRβ) suggested that farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP), a key intermediate in cholesterol synthesis and protein farnesylation, might function as an agonist. Surprisingly, addition of FPP to cells activated TR as well as the classical steroid hormone receptors but not peroxisome proliferative-activating receptors, farnesoid X receptor, liver X receptor, or several orphan nuclear receptors the ligands of which are unknown. FPP enhanced receptor-coactivator binding in vitro and in vivo, and elevation of FPP levels in cells by squalene synthetase or farnesyl transferase inhibitors leads to activation. The FPP effect was blocked by selective receptor antagonists, and in silico docking with 143 nuclear receptor ligand-binding domain structures revealed that FPP only docked with the agonist conformation of those receptors activated by FPP. Our results suggest that certain nuclear receptors maintain a common structural feature that may reflect an action of FPP on an ancient nuclear receptor or that FPP could function as a ligand for one of the many orphan nuclear receptors the ligands of which have not yet been identified. This finding also has potential interesting implications that may, in part, explain the pleotropic effects of statins as well as certain actions of farnesylation inhibitors in cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2672-2686
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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