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J Biol Chem. 2002 Nov 29;277(48):46226-32. Epub 2002 Sep 20.

Activation of MEK/ERK signaling promotes adipogenesis by enhancing peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma ) and C/EBPalpha gene expression during the differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


We demonstrate that exposure of post-confluent 3T3-L1 preadipocytes to insulin, isobutylmethylxanthine (MIX), dexamethasone (DEX), and fetal bovine serum induces a rapid but transient activation of MEK1 as indicated by extensive phosphorylation of ERK1 and ERK2 during the initial 2 h of adipogenesis. Inhibition of this activity by treating the cells with a MEK1-specific inhibitor (U0126 or PD98059) prior to the induction of differentiation significantly attenuated the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma, CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) alpha, perilipin, and adipocyte-specific fatty acid-binding protein (aP2). Treating the preadipocytes with troglitazone, a potent PPARgamma ligand, could circumvent the inhibition of adipogenic gene expression by U0126. Fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2), in the presence of dexamethasone, isobutylmethylxanthine, and insulin, induces a prolonged activation of the MEK/ERK signaling pathway, which lasts for at least 12 h post-induction, and this activity is less sensitive to the MEK inhibitors. Consequently, preadipocytes treated with U0126 in the presence of fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) express normal post-induction levels of MEK activity, and, in so doing, are capable of undergoing adipogenesis. We further show that activation of MEK1 significantly enhances the transactivation of the C/EBPalpha minimal promoter during the early phase of the differentiation process. Our results suggest that activation of the MEK/ERK signaling pathway during the initial 12 h of adipogenesis enhances the activity of factors that regulate both C/EBPalpha and PPARgamma expression.

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