Cell-permeable small molecules are powerful tools for unraveling complex cellular pathways. We demonstrate that nuclear hormone receptors can be engineered through mutagenesis to create orthogonal ligand-receptor pairs to control transcription. Mutated residues in the retinoid X receptor (RXR) were chosen from structural analysis of RXR and the retinoic acid receptor (RAR) ligand binding domains. The potential ligands screened for activation of variant receptors are "near drugs"-compounds synthesized during structure-activity studies that are structurally similar to an approved drug yet inactive on the wild-type receptor. One variant, Q275C;I310M;F313I, is poorly activated by ligands for the wild-type receptor but is activated by a "near drug", fulfilling the criteria of an orthogonal ligand-receptor pair. These experiments demonstrate that nuclear hormone receptors are well suited to supply orthogonal ligand-receptor pairs for experimental biology, biotechnology, and gene therapy. Our findings also demonstrate the general principle that inactive compounds synthesized during drug discovery can be combined with mutant proteins to rapidly create new tools for controlling cellular processes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry