Nuclear receptors are a class of proteins found within cells that are responsible for sensing steroid and thyroid hormones and certain other molecules. In response, these receptors work with other proteins to regulate the expression of specific genes, thereby controlling the development, homeostasis, and metabolism of the organism.
Nuclear receptors have the ability to directly bind to DNA and regulate the expression of adjacent genes, hence these receptors are classified as transcription factors. The regulation of gene expression by nuclear receptors generally only happens when a ligand — a molecule that affects the receptor’s behavior — is present. More specifically, ligand binding to a nuclear receptor results in a conformational change in the receptor, which, in turn, activates the receptor, resulting in up- or down-regulation of gene expression. Nuclear receptors play key roles in both embryonic development and adult homeostasis.
The retinoic acid receptor (RAR) is a type of nuclear receptor which can also act as a transcription factor that is activated by both all-trans retinoic acid and 9-cis retinoic acid. Binding of agonist ligands to RAR results in dissociation of corepressor and recruitment of coactivator protein that, in turn, promotes transcription of the downstream target gene into mRNA and eventually protein. In addition, the expression of RAR genes is under epigenetic regulation by promoter methylation.
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