Liver contains two pyruvate dehydrogenase kinases (PDKs), namely PDK2 and PDK4, which regulate glucose oxidation through inhibitory phosphorylation of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC). Starvation increases hepatic PDK2 and PDK4 protein expression, the latter occurring, in part, via a mechanism involving peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPARα). High-fat feeding and hyperthyroidism, which increase circulating lipid supply, enhance hepatic PDK2 protein expression, but these increases are insufficient to account for observed increases in hepatic PDK activity. Enhanced expression of PDK4, but not PDK2, occurs in part via a mechanism involving PPAR-α. Heterodimerization partners for retinoid X receptors (RXRs) include PPARα and thyroid-hormone receptors (TRs). We therefore investigated the responses of hepatic PDK protein expression to high-fat feeding and hyperthyroidism in relation to hepatic lipid delivery and disposal. High-fat feeding increased hepatic PDK2, but not PDK4, protein expression whereas hyperthyroidism increased both hepatic PDK2 and PDK4 protein expression. Both manipulations decreased the sensitivity of hepatic carnitine palmitoyltransferase I (CPT I) to suppression by malonyl-CoA, but only hyperthyrodism elevated plasma fatty acid and ketone-body concentrations and CPT I maximal activity. Administration of the selective PPAR-α activator WY14,643 significantly increased PDK4 protein to a similar extent in both control and high-fat-fed rats, but WY14,643 treatment and hyperthyroidism did not have additive effects on hepatic PDK4 protein expression. PPARα activation did not influence hepatic PDK2 protein expression in euthyroid rats, suggesting that up-regulation of PDK2 by hyperthyroidism does not involve PPARα, but attenuated the effect of hyperthyroidism to increase hepatic PDK2 expression. The results indicate that hepatic PDK4 up-regulation can be achieved by heterodimerization of either PPARα or TR with the RXR receptor and that effects of PPARα activation on hepatic PDK2 and PDK4 expression favour a switch towards preferential expression of PDK4.

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