Signalling by small molecules, such as retinoic acid, is mediated by heterodimers comprising a class II nuclear receptor and an RXR (retinoid X receptor) subunit. The receptors bind to DNA response elements and act as ligand-dependent transcription factors, but, in the absence of signal, the receptors bind the co-repressors SMRT [silencing mediator for RAR (retinoic acid receptor) and TR (thyroid hormone receptor)] and NCoR (nuclear receptor co-repressor) and repress gene expression. Alternative splicing of the SMRT transcript in mammals generates six isoforms containing 1, 2 or 3 CoRNR (co-repressor for nuclear receptor) box motifs which are responsible for the interactions with nuclear receptors. We show that human cell lines express all six SMRT isoforms and then determine the binding affinity of mouse SMRT isoforms for RAR/RXR and three additional class II nuclear receptor-DNA complexes. This approach demonstrates the importance of the full complement of CoRNR boxes within each SMRT protein, rather than the identity of individual CoRNR boxes, in directing the interaction of SMRT with nuclear receptors. Each class of SMRT isoform displays a distinct feature, as the 1-box isoform discriminates between DNA response elements, the 2-box isoforms promote high-affinity binding to TR complexes and the 3-box isoforms show differential binding to nuclear receptors. Consequently, the differential deployment of SMRT isoforms observed in vivo could significantly expand the regulatory capacity of nuclear receptor signalling.