Induction of carnitine palmitoyl transferase 1 and fatty acid oxidation by retinoic acid in HepG2 cells

Jaume Amengual, Petar Petrov, M. Luisa Bonet, Joan Ribot, Andreu Palou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The vitamin A derivative retinoic acid (RA) is an important regulator of mammalian adiposity and lipid metabolism, primarily acting at the gene expression level through nuclear receptors of the RA receptor (RAR) and retinoid X receptor (RXR) subfamilies. Here, we studied cell-autonomous effects of RA on fatty acid metabolism, particularly fatty acid oxidation, in human hepatoma HepG2 cells. Exposure to all-trans RA (ATRA) up-regulated the expression of carnitine palmitoyl transferase-1 (CPT1-L) in HepG2 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner, and increased cellular oxidation rate of exogenously added radiolabeled palmitate. The effect of ATRA on gene expression of CPT1-L was: dependent on ongoing transcription, reproduced by both 9-cis RA and a pan-RXR agonist (but not a pan-RAR agonist) and abolished following RXRα partial siRNA-mediated silencing. CPT1-L gene expression was synergistically induced in HepG2 cells simultaneously exposed to ATRA and a selective peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α agonist. We conclude that ATRA treatment enhances fatty acid catabolism in hepatocytes through RXR-mediated mechanisms that likely involve the transactivation of the PPARα:RXR heterodimer. Knowledge of agents and nutrient-derivatives capable of enhancing substrate oxidation systemically and specifically in liver, and their mechanisms of action, may contribute to new avenues of prevention and treatment of fatty liver, obesity and other metabolic syndrome-related disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2019-2027
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Fatty acid oxidation
  • Fatty liver
  • Liver lipid metabolism
  • Retinoic acid
  • Rxr
  • Vitamin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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