Objective: The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α1 (PGC-1α1) regulates genes involved in energy metabolism. Increasing adipose tissue energy expenditure through PGC-1α1 activation is potentially beneficial for systemic metabolism. Pharmacological PGC-1α1 activators could be valuable tools in the fight against obesity and metabolic disease. Finding such compounds has been challenging partly because PGC-1α1 is a transcriptional coactivator with no known ligand-binding properties. While, PGC-1α1 activation is regulated by several mechanisms, protein stabilization is a crucial limiting step due to its short half-life under unstimulated conditions.
Methods: We designed a cell-based high-throughput screening system to identify PGC-1α1 protein stabilizers. Positive hits were tested for their ability to induce endogenous PGC-1α1 protein accumulation and activate target gene expression in brown adipocytes. Select compounds were analyzed for their effects on global gene expression and cellular respiration in adipocytes.
Results: Among 7,040 compounds screened, we highlight four small molecules with high activity as measured by: PGC-1α1 protein accumulation, target gene expression, and uncoupled mitochondrial respiration in brown adipocytes.
Conclusions: We identify compounds that induce PGC-1α1 protein accumulation and show that this increases uncoupled respiration in brown adipocytes. This screening platform establishes the foundation for a new class of therapeutics with potential use in obesity and associated disorders.
Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; Mitochondrial respiration; PGC-1a; PGC-1alpha; PGC-1alpha1; Protein stabilization; Small molecule screening; UCP1.
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