Indole microbial intestinal metabolites expand the repertoire of ligands and agonists of the human pregnane X receptor

Peter Illés, Kristýna Krasulová, Barbora Vyhlídalová, Karolína Poulíková, Adéla Marcalíková, Petra Pečinková, Natália Sirotová, Radim Vrzal, Sridhar Mani, Zdeněk Dvořák

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The interplays between the metabolic products of intestinal microbiota and the host signaling through xenobiotic receptors, including pregnane X receptor (PXR), are of growing interest, in the context of intestinal health and disease. A distinct class of microbial catabolites is formed from dietary tryptophan, having the indole scaffold in their core structure, which is a biologically active entity. In the current study, we examined a series of ten tryptophan microbial catabolites for their interactions with PXR signaling. Utilizing a reporter gene assay, we identified indole (IND) and indole-3-acetamide (IAD) as PXR agonists. IND and IAD induced PXR-regulated genes CYP3A4 and MDR1 in human intestinal cancer cells. Using time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer, we show that IND (IC50 292 μM) and IAD (IC50 10 μM) are orthosteric ligands of PXR. Binding of PXR in its DNA response elements was enhanced by IND and IAD, as revealed by chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. We demonstrate that tryptophan microbial intestinal metabolites IND and IAD are ligands and agonists of human PXR. These findings are of particular importance in understanding the roles of microbial catabolites in human physiology and pathophysiology. Furthermore, these results are seminal in expanding potential drug repertoire through microbial metabolic mimicry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology Letters
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Indole metabolites
  • Intestinal health
  • Microbial catabolism
  • Pregnane X receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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