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Cell Res. 2012 Apr;22(4):746-56. doi: 10.1038/cr.2011.162. Epub 2011 Oct 11.

Revealing a steroid receptor ligand as a unique PPARγ agonist.

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State Key Laboratory for Cellular Stress Biology, School of Life Sciences, Xiamen University, Fujian, China.


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) regulates metabolic homeostasis and is a molecular target for anti-diabetic drugs. We report here the identification of a steroid receptor ligand, RU-486, as an unexpected PPARγ agonist, thereby uncovering a novel signaling route for this steroid drug. Similar to rosiglitazone, RU-486 modulates the expression of key PPARγ target genes and promotes adipocyte differentiation, but with a lower adipogenic activity. Structural and functional studies of receptor-ligand interactions reveal the molecular basis for a unique binding mode for RU-486 in the PPARγ ligand-binding pocket with distinctive properties and epitopes, providing the molecular mechanisms for the discrimination of RU-486 from thiazolidinediones (TZDs) drugs. Our findings together indicate that steroid compounds may represent an alternative approach for designing non-TZD PPARγ ligands in the treatment of insulin resistance.

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