Is there a single mechanism for fatty acid regulation of gene transcription?

Biochem Pharmacol. 2002 Sep;64(5-6):893-901. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(02)01157-7.


Besides their role as energetic molecules, fatty acids (FAs) also act as signals involved in regulating gene expression. This review focuses on a few examples of FA regulation. The hepatic lipogenic enzyme, fatty acid synthase (FAS) is negatively regulated by polyunsaturated FAs (PUFAs) which suppress sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 (SREBP 1) gene expression and nuclear content in hepatocytes, thereby reducing FAS gene transcription. It was proposed recently that this reduction in SREBP 1 was the result of a PUFA-induced antagonism of ligand-dependent activation of the liver X nuclear receptor (LXR), known to be an inducer of the SREBP 1 gene. In contrast, several genes are turned on by long-chain (LCFAs) and nonmetabolized FAs in a physiologically relevant manner. These include the acyl-CoA oxidase (AOX), the liver carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (L-CPT 1) and the liver fatty acid binding protein (L-FABP). While induction of AOX gene transcription appears to be PPARalpha-dependent, that of the L-CPT 1 gene seems disconnected from PPAR activation. Results obtained in preadipocytes and in intestine cells are in support of a key role played by the beta/delta isoform of PPAR in LCFA induction of the FABP gene. Transcription of the phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) gene is stimulated by unsaturated and nonmetabolized LCFAs specifically in adipocytes. Our results reported here support the notion that the mechanisms by which PPARgamma activators and FAs induce transcription of the PEPCK gene are distinct. Altogether these data argue that several FA effects are PPAR-independent. Evidences suggesting that other transcription factors might be involved are debated. It seems now clear that depending upon the cell-specific context and the target gene, FAs can take very different routes to alter transcription.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Down-Regulation
  • Fatty Acids / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Fatty Acids
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Transcription Factors