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Cell. 2009 Aug 7;138(3):476-88. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.05.036. Epub 2009 Jul 30.

Identification of a physiologically relevant endogenous ligand for PPARalpha in liver.

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Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Lipid Research, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8127, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


The nuclear receptor PPARalpha is activated by drugs to treat human disorders of lipid metabolism. Its endogenous ligand is unknown. PPARalpha-dependent gene expression is impaired with inactivation of fatty acid synthase (FAS), suggesting that FAS is involved in generation of a PPARalpha ligand. Here we demonstrate the FAS-dependent presence of a phospholipid bound to PPARalpha isolated from mouse liver. Binding was increased under conditions that induce FAS activity and displaced by systemic injection of a PPARalpha agonist. Mass spectrometry identified the species as 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycerol-3-phosphocholine (16:0/18:1-GPC). Knockdown of Cept1, required for phosphatidylcholine synthesis, suppressed PPARalpha-dependent gene expression. Interaction of 16:0/18:1-GPC with the PPARalpha ligand-binding domain and coactivator peptide motifs was comparable to PPARalpha agonists, but interactions with PPARdelta were weak and none were detected with PPARgamma. Portal vein infusion of 16:0/18:1-GPC induced PPARalpha-dependent gene expression and decreased hepatic steatosis. These data suggest that 16:0/18:1-GPC is a physiologically relevant endogenous PPARalpha ligand.

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