Cyclin C regulates adipogenesis by stimulating transcriptional activity of CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α

J Biol Chem. 2017 May 26;292(21):8918-8932. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M117.776229. Epub 2017 Mar 28.


Brown adipose tissue is important for maintaining energy homeostasis and adaptive thermogenesis in rodents and humans. As disorders arising from dysregulated energy metabolism, such as obesity and metabolic diseases, have increased, so has interest in the molecular mechanisms of adipocyte biology. Using a functional screen, we identified cyclin C (CycC), a conserved subunit of the Mediator complex, as a novel regulator for brown adipocyte formation. siRNA-mediated CycC knockdown (KD) in brown preadipocytes impaired the early transcriptional program of differentiation, and genetic KO of CycC completely blocked the differentiation process. RNA sequencing analyses of CycC-KD revealed a critical role of CycC in activating genes co-regulated by peroxisome proliferator activated receptor γ (PPARγ) and CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α (C/EBPα). Overexpression of PPARγ2 or addition of the PPARγ ligand rosiglitazone rescued the defects in CycC-KO brown preadipocytes and efficiently activated the PPARγ-responsive promoters in both WT and CycC-KO cells, suggesting that CycC is not essential for PPARγ transcriptional activity. In contrast, CycC-KO significantly reduced C/EBPα-dependent gene expression. Unlike for PPARγ, overexpression of C/EBPα could not induce C/EBPα target gene expression in CycC-KO cells or rescue the CycC-KO defects in brown adipogenesis, suggesting that CycC is essential for C/EBPα-mediated gene activation. CycC physically interacted with C/EBPα, and this interaction was required for C/EBPα transactivation domain activity. Consistent with the role of C/EBPα in white adipogenesis, CycC-KD also inhibited differentiation of 3T3-L1 cells into white adipocytes. Together, these data indicate that CycC activates adipogenesis in part by stimulating the transcriptional activity of C/EBPα.

Keywords: C/EBPα; Mediator complex; PPARγ; adipocyte; adipogenesis; brown adipocyte; cell differentiation; cyclin C; gene expression; transcription coregulator.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipocytes, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipogenesis*
  • Animals
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cyclin C / genetics
  • Cyclin C / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • PPAR gamma / genetics
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins
  • CEBPA protein, mouse
  • Ccnc protein, mouse
  • Cyclin C
  • PPAR gamma