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Tissue-specific regulation of metabolic pathways through the transcriptional coactivator PGC1-α


Metabolic pathways are controlled at different levels in response to environmental or hormonal stimuli. This control is achieved, at least in part, at the transcriptional level of gene expression. The regulation of gene expression is executed by specific transcription factors, but there is another level of regulation by a set of proteins that modulate these factors called transcriptional coactivators. In mammals, one of the most characterized examples of regulation of metabolic pathways by transcriptional coactivators is peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors gamma (PPARγ) coactivator-1 alpha (PGC-1α). PGC-1α is activated by signals that control energy and nutrient homeostasis. Notably, PGC-1α induces and coordinates gene expression that stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and a thermogenic program in brown fat, fiber-type switching in skeletal muscle, and metabolic pathways linked to the fasted response in the liver. PGC-1α activates gene expression through specific interaction with transcription factors that bind to the promoters of metabolic genes. These transcription factors can be ubiquitous such as the nuclear respiratory factors or tissue-enriched factors such as PPARγ (brown fat), hepatocyte nuclear factor (HNF4α) (liver and pancreas) and muscle enhancer factor (MEF2s). The fact that PGC-1α controls important metabolic pathways in several tissues suggests that it can be a therapeutic target for antiobesity or diabetes drugs.

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I thank Dr Bruce Spiegelman and his laboratory for his support and helpful discussions over the last years. I also thank Francisca Vazquez and members of the Puigserver's laboratory, Joseph Rodgers and Tom Cunningham for careful reading of this review.

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Correspondence to P Puigserver.

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Puigserver, P. Tissue-specific regulation of metabolic pathways through the transcriptional coactivator PGC1-α. Int J Obes 29, S5–S9 (2005).

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  • PGC1
  • PPAR

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