Transcriptional Regulation of Adipogenesis

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Adipocytes are the defining cell type of adipose tissue. Once considered a passive participant in energy storage, adipose tissue is now recognized as a dynamic organ that contributes to several important physiological processes, such as lipid metabolism, systemic energy homeostasis, and whole-body insulin sensitivity. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms involved in its development and function is of great importance. Adipocyte differentiation is a highly orchestrated process which can vary between different fat depots as well as between the sexes. While hormones, miRNAs, cytoskeletal proteins, and many other effectors can modulate adipocyte development, the best understood regulators of adipogenesis are the transcription factors that inhibit or promote this process. Ectopic expression and knockdown approaches in cultured cells have been widely used to understand the contribution of transcription factors to adipocyte development, providing a basis for more sophisticated in vivo strategies to examine adipogenesis. To date, over two dozen transcription factors have been shown to play important roles in adipocyte development. These transcription factors belong to several families with many different DNA-binding domains. While peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) is undoubtedly the most important transcriptional modulator of adipocyte development in all types of adipose tissue, members of the CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein, Krüppel-like transcription factor, signal transducer and activator of transcription, GATA, early B cell factor, and interferon-regulatory factor families also regulate adipogenesis. The importance of PPARγ activity is underscored by several covalent modifications that modulate its activity and its ability to modulate adipocyte development. This review will primarily focus on the transcriptional control of adipogenesis in white fat cells and on the mechanisms involved in this fine-tuned developmental process. © 2017 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 7:635-674, 2017.

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Comprehensive Physiology

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