Short-chain fatty acids and thyroid hormone interact in regulating enterocyte gene transcription

Surgery. 1999 Aug;126(2):293-8.


Background: Enterocyte differentiation is known to be regulated by a variety of extracellular compounds, among which are triiodothyronine (T3) and the short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Because several SCFAs are known to induce histone hyperacetylation, and T3 action has been recently linked to chromatin structure, we sought to investigate the interplay between SCFAs and T3 in regard to the enterocyte differentiation marker, intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP).

Methods: Caco-2 cells were transiently transfected with a reporter construct containing 2.4 kb of the human IAP gene 5' flanking region (IAP2.4CAT). Cotransfections were carried out with and without thyroid hormone receptor-1 (TR beta-1) or histone deacetylase-1 (HDAC-1) expression plasmids. Cells were treated with 5 mmol/L SCFAs (propionic, butyric, valeric, or caproic acids as propionate, butyrate, valerate, or caproate, respectively), with and without 10 nmol/L T3. Reporter gene activity was measured and the level of histone acetylation assessed by means of acid-urea-triton (AUT) gel assays.

Results: TR beta-1 cotransfection caused a marked decrease in IAP reporter gene activity, which is consistent with the well-known phenomenon of ligand independent repression (LIR), whereas T3 treatment reversed the LIR and caused further reporter gene activation. Treatment with SCFAs similarly resulted in a complete blockage of LIR, and, in fact, turned the TR beta-1 into a transcriptional activator, even in the absence of T3. Concomitant treatment with T3 and butyric acid produced an additive effect on IAP transactivation. In contrast, cotransfection with HDAC-1 attenuated the effects of SCFAs on IAP gene activation. AUT gel studies demonstrated histone hyperacetylation in response to SCFA treatment.

Conclusion: One or more DNA cis-elements in the human IAP gene mediate ligand independent repression by the TR beta-1, an effect that can be entirely reversed by those SCFAs that induce histone hyperacetylation. In addition T3 and SCFAs can act in concert to induce IAP gene transcription, demonstrating an important link between triiodothyronine and histone hyperacetylation in regard to enterocyte-specific gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / genetics
  • Butyric Acid / pharmacology*
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines / cytology
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Triiodothyronine / pharmacology*


  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Butyric Acid
  • Alkaline Phosphatase