Cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase (Cyp7a1) plays a central role in the regulation of bile acid and cholesterol metabolism, and transcription of the gene is controlled by bile acids and hormones acting through a complex interaction with a number of potential steroid-hormone-binding sites. Transcriptional activity of the human CYP7A1 gene promoter transfected into HepG2 cells was decreased in a concentration-dependent manner by co-transfection with an expression vector for peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPARα). This effect was augmented by 9-cis-retinoic acid receptor-α (RXRα) and activators of PPARα to give a maximum inhibition of approx. 80%. The region responsible for this inhibition contained a site known to bind hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 (HNF4), and mutation of this site greatly decreased the effect. Co-expression of HNF4 increased promoter activity and decreased the effect of PPARα. Gel-mobility-shift assays failed to detect any binding of PPARα/RXRα dimers to any regions of the promoter containing potential binding sites. Also the hepatic abundance of Cyp7a1 mRNA in mice in which the PPARα gene was disrupted was the same as in normal mice, both during the dark phase, when the animals were feeding, and during the light phase, when mRNA abundance was greatly increased. Cholesterol feeding produced the same increase in hepatic Cyp7a1 mRNA abundance in PPARα-null animals as in normals. It is concluded that, whereas PPARα can affect CYP7A1 gene transcription in vitro through an indirect action, probably by competing for co-factors, this is unlikely to be a major influence on Cyp7a1 activity under normal physiological conditions.

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Author notes

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Present address: CV Therapeutics Inc., 3172 Porter Drive, Palo Alto, CA 94304, U.S.A.