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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e46324. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046324. Epub 2012 Sep 25.

Hypoxia induces PDK4 gene expression through induction of the orphan nuclear receptor ERRγ.

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National Creative Research Initiatives Center for Nuclear Receptor Signals and Hormone Research Center, School of Biological Sciences and Technology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju, Republic of Korea.


Multiple cellular signaling pathways that control metabolism and survival are activated when cell are incubated under hypoxic conditions. Activation of the hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1 promotes expression of genes that increase the capacity to cope with the stress imposed by a reduced oxygen environment. Here we show that the orphan nuclear receptor estrogen related receptor γ (ERRγ) plays a critical role in hypoxia-mediated activation of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4) gene expression. ERRγ mRNA and protein levels were increased by hypoxia or desferrioxamine (DFO) treatment in hepatoma cell lines. Co-expression of HIF-1α and β increased ERRγ promoter activity as well as mRNA expression, while knockdown of endogenous HIF-1α reduced the hypoxia-mediated induction of ERRγ. In addition, hypoxia also increased the promoter activity and mRNA level of PDK4 in HepG2 cells. Adenovirus mediated-overexpression of ERRγ specifically increased PDK4 gene expression, while ablation of endogenous ERRγ significantly decreased hypoxia-mediated induction of PDK4 gene expression. Finally, GSK5182, an inverse agonist of ERRγ, strongly inhibited the hypoxia-mediated induction of PDK4 protein and promoter activity. Regulation of the transcriptional activity of ERRγ may provide a therapeutic approach for the regulation of PDK4 gene expression under hypoxia.

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