TGH (triacylglycerol hydrolase) catalyses the lipolysis of intracellular stored triacylglycerol. To explore the mechanisms that regulate TGH expression in adipose tissue, we studied the expression of TGH during the differentiation of 3T3-L1 adipocytes. TGH mRNA and protein levels increased dramatically in 3T3-L1 adipocytes compared with pre-adipocytes. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated enhanced binding of nuclear proteins of adipocytes to the distal murine TGH promoter region (−542/−371 bp), yielding one adipocyte-specific migrating complex. Competitive and supershift assays demonstrated that the distal TGH promoter fragment bound C/EBPα (CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α). Transient transfections of different mutant TGH promoter–luciferase constructs into 3T3-L1 adipocytes and competitive electromobility shift assays showed that the C/EBP-binding elements at positions −470/−459 bp and −404/−390 bp are important for transcriptional activation. Co-transfection with C/EBPα cDNA and TGH promoter constructs in 3T3-L1 pre-adipocytes demonstrated that C/EBPα increased TGH promoter activity. Ectopic expression of C/EBPα in NIH 3T3 cells activated TGH mRNA expression without causing differentiation into adipocytes. These experiments directly link increased TGH expression in adipocytes to transcriptional regulation by C/EBPα. This is the first evidence that C/EBPα participates directly in the regulation of an enzyme associated with lipolysis.

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