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J Biol Chem. 1992 Mar 25;267(9):5937-41.

Fatty acid regulation of gene expression. Transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms.

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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Fatty acids are important metabolic substrates and may also be involved in pathological syndromes such as the insulin resistance of diabetes and obesity. We demonstrate here that fatty acids can regulate specific gene expression; mRNAs encoding the fatty acid binding protein adipocyte P2 (aP2) and the Fos-related transcription factor Fra1 are specifically induced at least 20-fold upon treatment of preadipocytes with oleate. For aP2, the effect requires long chain fatty acids and occurs without a generalized activation of the genes linked to adipocyte differentiation. Other fibroblastic cells without preadipocyte characteristics do not induce aP2 mRNA in response to fatty acids. Unlike aP2, Fra1 induction by fatty acids also can be detected in NIH 3T3 and 3T3-C2 fibroblasts. Nuclear transcription assays in 3T3-F442A preadipocytes demonstrate that fatty acids elicit no transcriptional increase in the aP2 gene. Fra1, on the other hand, shows a 3-4-fold increase in transcription. These results demonstrate at least two distinct mechanisms by which fatty acids may influence gene expression.

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