Whole-organism screening for gluconeogenesis identifies activators of fasting metabolism

Nat Chem Biol. 2013 Feb;9(2):97-104. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1136. Epub 2012 Dec 2.


Improving the control of energy homeostasis can lower cardiovascular risk in metabolically compromised individuals. To identify new regulators of whole-body energy control, we conducted a high-throughput screen in transgenic reporter zebrafish for small molecules that modulate the expression of the fasting-inducible gluconeogenic gene pck1. We show that this in vivo strategy identified several drugs that affect gluconeogenesis in humans as well as metabolically uncharacterized compounds. Most notably, we find that the translocator protein ligands PK 11195 and Ro5-4864 are glucose-lowering agents despite a strong inductive effect on pck1 expression. We show that these drugs are activators of a fasting-like energy state and, notably, that they protect high-fat diet-induced obese mice from hepatosteatosis and glucose intolerance, two pathological manifestations of metabolic dysregulation. Thus, using a whole-organism screening strategy, this study has identified new small-molecule activators of fasting metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Benzodiazepinones / pharmacology
  • Drug Design
  • Fasting / metabolism
  • Food Deprivation*
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxykinase (GTP) / metabolism
  • Protein Transport
  • Transgenes
  • Zebrafish


  • Benzodiazepinones
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Isoquinolines
  • Ligands
  • 4'-chlorodiazepam
  • PCK1 protein, human
  • Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxykinase (GTP)
  • Glucose
  • PK 11195