p21 Cip1 plays a critical role in the physiological adaptation to fasting through activation of PPARα

Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 10;6:34542. doi: 10.1038/srep34542.


Fasting is a physiological stress that elicits well-known metabolic adaptations, however, little is known about the role of stress-responsive tumor suppressors in fasting. Here, we have examined the expression of several tumor suppressors upon fasting in mice. Interestingly, p21 mRNA is uniquely induced in all the tissues tested, particularly in liver and muscle (>10 fold), and this upregulation is independent of p53. Remarkably, in contrast to wild-type mice, p21-null mice become severely morbid after prolonged fasting. The defective adaptation to fasting of p21-null mice is associated to elevated energy expenditure, accelerated depletion of fat stores, and premature activation of protein catabolism in the muscle. Analysis of the liver transcriptome and cell-based assays revealed that the absence of p21 partially impairs the transcriptional program of PPARα, a key regulator of fasting metabolism. Finally, treatment of p21-null mice with a PPARα agonist substantially protects them from their accelerated loss of fat upon fasting. We conclude that p21 plays a relevant role in fasting adaptation through the positive regulation of PPARα.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism*
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • PPAR alpha / genetics
  • PPAR alpha / metabolism*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Cdkn1a protein, mouse
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • PPAR alpha
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53