Regulation of the transcriptional activity of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha by phosphorylation of a ligand-independent trans-activating domain

J Biol Chem. 1999 Apr 9;274(15):10505-10. doi: 10.1074/jbc.274.15.10505.


The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are a subgroup of nuclear receptors activated by fatty acids and eicosanoids. In addition, they are subject to phosphorylation by insulin, resulting in the activation of PPARalpha, while inhibiting PPARgamma under certain conditions. However, it was hitherto unclear whether the stimulatory effect of insulin on PPARalpha was direct and by which mechanism it occurs. We now demonstrate that amino acids 1-92 of hPPARalpha contain an activation function (AF)-1-like domain, which is further activated by insulin through a pathway involving the mitogen-activated protein kinases p42 and p44. Further analysis of the amino-terminal region of PPARalpha revealed that the insulin-induced trans-activation occurs through the phosphorylation of two mitogen-activated protein kinase sites at positions 12 and 21, both of which are conserved across evolution. The characterization of a strong AF-1 region in PPARalpha, stimulating transcription one-fourth as strongly as the viral protein VP16, is compatible with the marked basal transcriptional activity of this isoform in transfection experiments. However, it is intriguing that the activity of this AF-1 region is modulated by the phosphorylation of two serine residues, both of which must be phosphorylated in order to activate transcription. This is in contrast to PPARgamma2, which was previously shown to be phosphorylated at a single site in a motif that is not homologous to the sites now described in PPARalpha. Although the molecular details involved in the phosphorylation-dependent enhancement of the transcriptional activity of PPARalpha remain to be elucidated, we demonstrate that the effect of insulin on the AF-1 region of PPARalpha can be mimicked by the addition of triiodothyronine receptor beta1, a strong binder of corepressor proteins. In addition, a triiodothyronine receptor beta1 mutant deficient in interacting with corepressors is unable to activate PPARalpha. These observations suggest that the AF-1 region of PPARalpha is partially silenced by corepressor proteins, which might interact in a phosphorylation-dependent manner.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Consensus Sequence
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Receptor Co-Repressor 1
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • Insulin
  • Ligands
  • NCOR1 protein, human
  • Ncor1 protein, mouse
  • Ncor1 protein, rat
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Nuclear Receptor Co-Repressor 1
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases