An emerging role for epigenetic regulation of Pgc-1α expression in environmentally stimulated brown adipose thermogenesis

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21 Scopus citations


Metabolic disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, and obesity, a central risk factor, is reaching epidemic proportions. Energy expenditure and brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis are implicated in metabolic disease, and it is becoming evident that impaired BAT activity is regulated by gene/environment interactions. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γcoactivator 1α (Pgc-1α) is a critical regulator of BAT thermogenesis, which is highly inducible by environmental stimuli such as cold and diet. This review focuses on the environmentally mediated epigenetic and transcriptional regulation of Pgc-1α gene expression during BAT thermogenesis. We illustrate interactions between histone modifications and transcription factors at the Pgc-1α promoter that cause BAT Pgc-1α transcription in response to cold. Histone modifications also modulate BAT Pgc-1α transcription in response to nutrients though diet has been less characterized than cold with respect to regulation of Pgc-1α transcription. Pgc-1α DNA methylation and RNA expression were also correlated to indicators of adiposity and glucose homeostasis across numerous human tissues. Although post-translational modification of Pgc-1α protein has been well-characterized across diverse tissues and environments, comparatively little is known of the epigenetic mechanisms regulating Pgc-1α transcription, particularly in BAT thermogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdvx009
JournalEnvironmental Epigenetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • brown adipose tissue
  • coactivator 1α
  • epigenetics
  • gene regulation
  • peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ
  • thermogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Genetics(clinical)


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