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Mol Pharm. 2009 Sep-Oct;6(5):1573-81. doi: 10.1021/mp9001552.

Transcriptional activation of PPARalpha by phenobarbital in the absence of CAR and PXR.

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Genome Scale Biology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.


The nuclear receptors CAR (constitutive androstane receptor) and PXR (pregnane X receptor) mediate the effects of phenobarbital on gene transcription. To investigate the relative contribution of these nuclear receptors to the expression of specific genes we studied the effect of phenobarbital in livers of wild type, CAR(-/-), PXR(-/-) and CAR/PXR(-/-) knockout mice. Spotted Steroltalk v1 cDNA arrays were applied containing probes for genes involved in drug metabolism, sterol biosynthesis, steroid synthesis/transport and heme synthesis. In the absence of CAR and PXR, phenobarbital unexpectedly induced mRNAs of several nuclear receptors, including PPARalpha and its target genes Cyp4a10 and Cyp4a14. Interestingly, in primary cultures of hepatocytes isolated from CAR/PXR(-/-) knockout mice, phenobarbital increased HNF-4alpha levels. In further experiments in these hepatocyte cultures we provide evidence that phenobarbital directly induces transcription of the PPARalpha gene via its HNF-4alpha response element, and indirectly by lack of inhibitory crosstalk of AMPK, CAR and PXR with HNF-4alpha. Our results provide further insight into CAR and PXR-independent effects of phenobarbital and the crosstalk between different nuclear receptor signaling pathways.

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