We report the isolation and pharmacological characterization of conicasterol E isolated from the marine sponge Theonella swinhoei. Pharmacological characterization of this steroid in comparison to CDCA, a natural FXR ligand, and 6-ECDCA, a synthetic FXR agonist generated by an improved synthetic strategy, and rifaximin, a potent PXR agonist, demonstrated that conicasterol E is an FXR modulator endowed with PXR agonistic activity. Conicasterol E induces the expression of genes involved in bile acids detoxification without effect on the expression of small heterodimer partner (SHP), thus sparing the expression of genes involved in bile acids biosynthesis. The relative positioning in the ligand binding domain of FXR, explored through docking calculations, demonstrated a different spatial arrangement for conicasterol E and pointed to the presence of simultaneous and efficient interactions with the receptor. In summary, conicasterol E represents a FXR modulator and PXR agonist that might hold utility in treatment of liver disorders.
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