Nutritional long-chain fatty acids control adipose tissue mass by regulating the number and the size of adipocytes. It is now established that peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) play crucial functions in the control of gene expression and the level of cell differentiation. PPARγ, which is activated by specific prostanoids, is a key factor in activating terminal differentiation and adipogenesis. We have recently demonstrated that PPARδ, once activated by fatty acids, drives the expression of a limited set of genes, including that encoding PPARγ, thereby inducing adipose differentiation. Thus far, the mechanism of action of fatty acids in the control of preadipocyte proliferation has remained unknown. We show here that PPARδ is directly implicated in fatty acid-induced cell proliferation. Ectopic expression of PPARδ renders 3T3C2 cells capable of responding to treatment with long-chain fatty acids by a resumption of mitosis, and this effect is limited to a few days after confluence. This response is restricted to PPARδ activators and, for fatty acids, takes place within the range of concentrations found to trigger differentiation of preadipocytes both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, the use of a mutated inactive PPARδ demonstrated that transcriptional activity of the nuclear receptor is required to mediate fatty acid-induced proliferation. These data demonstrate that PPARδ, as a transcription factor, is directly implicated in fatty acid-induced proliferation, and this could explain the hyperplastic development of adipose tissue that occurs in high-fat-fed animals.

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