Biochemical Journal

Research article

Down-regulation of the mitochondrial 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase gene by insulin: the role of the forkhead transcription factor FKHRL1

Alícia NADAL, Pedro F. MARRERO, Diego HARO


Normal physiological responses to carbohydrate shortages cause the liver to increase the production of ketone bodies from the acetyl-CoA generated from fatty acid oxidation. This allows the use of ketone bodies for energy, thereby preserving the limited glucose for use by the brain. This adaptative response is switched off by insulin rapidly inhibiting the expression of the mitochondrial 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) synthase (HMGCS2) gene, which is a key control site of ketogenesis. We decided to investigate the molecular mechanism of this inhibition. In the present study, we show that FKHRL1, a member of the forkhead in rhabdosarcoma (FKHR) subclass of the Fox family of transcription factors, stimulates transcription from transfected 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase promoter-luciferase reporter constructs, and that this stimulation is repressed by insulin. An FKHRL1-responsive sequence AAAAATA, located 211bp upstream of the HMGCS2 gene transcription start site, was identified by deletion analysis. It binds FKHRL1 in vivo and in vitro and confers FKHRL1 responsiveness on homologous and heterologous promoters. If it is mutated, it partially blocks the effect of insulin in HepG2 cells, both in the absence and presence of overexpressed FKHRL1. These results suggest that FKHRL1 contributes to the regulation of HMGCS2 gene expression by insulin.

  • gene expression
  • ketogenesis


  • Abbreviations used: CAT, chloramphenicol acetyltransferase; ChIP, chromatin immunoprecipitation; EMSA, electrophoretic mobility-shift assay; FKHR, forkhead in rhabdosarcoma (a transcription factor); HMG-CoA, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA; HMGCS2, mitochondrial HMG-CoA synthase; IGF, insulin-like growth factor; IGFBP, IGF-binding protein; IRE, insulin response element; IRS, insulin response sequence; mTOR, mammalian target of rapamycin; PI-3K, phosphoinositide 3-kinase; PKB, protein kinase B; TKLUC, thymidine kinase luciferase.