Bile acids, in particular chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) and cholic acid (CA), can regulate the expression of genes involved in their synthesis, thereby, creating a feed-back loop. The elucidation of this regulatory pathway came about as a consequence of the isolation of a class of receptors called the farnesoid X receptors, FXRs . The FXRs belong to the superfamily of nuclear receptors that includes the steroid/thyroid hormone receptor family as well as the liver X receptors (LXRs) , retinoid X receptors (RXRs), and the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) .
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Because steroids are lipophilic, they diffuse easily through the cell membranes, and therefore have a very large distribution volume. In their target tissues, steroids are concentrated by an uptake mechanism which relies on their binding to intracellular proteins (or " receptors ", see below). High concentration of steroids are also found in adipose tissue, although this is not a target for hormone action. In the human male, adipose tissue contains aromatase activity, and seems to be the main source of androgen-derived estrogens found in the circulation. But most of the peripheral metabolism occurs in the liver and to some extent in the kidneys, which are the major sites of hormone inactivation and elimination, or catabolism (see below).