The nuclear hormone receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma is a ligand-activated transcription factor that regulates several crucial biological processes such as adipogenesis, glucose homeostasis, and cell growth. It is also the functional receptor for a new class of insulin-sensitizing drugs, the thiazolidinediones, now widely used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Here we report that PPARgamma protein levels are significantly reduced in adipose cells and fibroblasts in response to specific ligands such as thiazolidinediones. Studies with several doses of different ligands illustrate that degradation of PPARgamma correlates well with the ability of ligands to activate this receptor. However, analyses of PPARgamma mutants show that, although degradation does not strictly depend on the transcriptional activity of the receptor, it is dependent upon the ligand-gated activation function 2 (AF2) domain. Proteasome inhibitors inhibited the down-regulation of PPARgamma and ligand activation enhanced the ubiquitination of this receptor. These data indicate that, although ligand binding and activation of the AF2 domain increase the transcriptional function of PPARgamma, these same processes also induce ubiquitination and subsequent degradation of this receptor by the proteasome.
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