1. College of Pharmacy, Jinan University, Guangzhou, 510632, China
2. Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine Postdoctoral research station, Jinan University, Guangzhou, 510632, China
3. Guangzhou Jinan Biomedicine Research and Development Center, Jinan University, Guangzhou, 510632, China
4. International Cooperative Laboratory of Traditional Chinese Medicine Modernization and Innovative Drug Development of Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE), College of Pharmacy, Jinan University, Guangzhou, 510632, China
REV-ERBα (NR1D1) is a circadian clock component that functions as a transcriptional repressor. Due to its role in direct modulation of metabolic genes, REV-ERBα is regarded as an integrator of cell metabolism with circadian clock. Accordingly, REV-ERBα is first proposed as a drug target for treating sleep disorders and metabolic syndromes (e.g., dyslipidaemia, hyperglycaemia and obesity). Recent years of studies uncover a rather broad role of REV-ERBα in pathological conditions including local inflammatory diseases, heart failure and cancers. Moreover, REV-ERBα is involved in regulation of circadian drug metabolism that has implications in chronopharmacology. In the meantime, recent years have witnessed discovery of an array of new REV-ERBα ligands most of which have pharmacological activities in vivo. In this article, we review the regulatory role of REV-ERBα in various types of diseases and discuss the underlying mechanisms. We also describe the newly discovered ligands and the old ones together with their targeting potential. Despite well-established pharmacological effects of REV-ERBα ligands in animals (preclinical studies), no progress has been made regarding their translation to clinical trials. This implies certain challenges associated with drug development of REV-ERBα ligands. In particular, we discuss the potential challenges related to drug safety (or adverse effects) and bioavailability. For new drug development, it is advocated that REV-ERBα should be targeted to treat local diseases and a targeting drug should be locally distributed, avoiding the adverse effects on other tissues.