Showing posts with label PGC-1α. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PGC-1α. Show all posts

Monday, 8 May 2017

Pan-agonists of PPARs and PGC-1α in Mitochondrial Disease, Autism and Sport

Today’s post should be of interest to those concerned about mitochondrial disease and mTOR.

mTOR is a very important signaling cascade that often dysfunctional in autism. Many aspects of autism and its comorbidities can be traced back to mTOR.
The going is easier with a PPAR pan-agonist 

mTOR integrates the input from upstream pathways, including insulin, growth, and amino acids.   mTOR also senses cellular nutrient, oxygen, and energy levels. The mTOR pathway is a central regulator of metabolism and physiology, with important roles in the function of tissues including liver, muscle, adipose tissue, and the brain.  It is dysregulated in human diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and indeed autism.

One important process affected by mTOR is the creation of new mitochondria in your cells.  Each cell has many mitochondria, but in some people there are not enough and/or they may not work properly.  
In the above post we saw that Oxidative phosphorylation (or OXPHOS in short) is the metabolic pathway in which cells use enzymes to oxidize nutrients, thereby releasing energy.  This takes place inside mitochondria.

The five enzymes required have simplified names: complex I, complex II, complex III, complex IV, and complex V.

The most common problem in autism is a lack of complex 1, this leads to a lack in the production of energy (ATP) in cells.  In your muscles this will appear as a lack of exercise endurance and in your brain as a lack of cognitive function.

On that rather intimidating chart (below), all about mTOR, tucked away at the bottom right is PGC-1α.
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1α) is the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis.

PGC-1α may be also involved in controlling blood pressure, regulating cellular cholesterol homoeostasis, and the development of obesity.

PGC-1α is thought to be a master integrator of external signals. It is known to be activated by a many factors, including:-

·         Exercise  (gradual endurance training)

·         PPARδ , PPARγ and it was thought PPARα

·         AMPK (Metformin, or AICAR)

·         Sirt-1 (resveratrol and other polyphenolic ‎compounds)

Interestingly, massage therapy appears to increase the amount of PGC-1α which leads to the production of new mitochondria. Many autism parents believe in various massage therapies. 

Metformin is a very old drug to treat diabetes, it does activate AMPK but unfortunately it also inhibits the Complex 1 mitochondrial enzyme. This might explain why one reader of this blog found it had a negative effect in her son.  In some types of cancer metformin can be used to “starve” the cancer cells of energy and stop them proliferating.

AICAR was thought to have been used by cyclists in the 2009 Tour de France, it is a heart drug from the 1980s. It activates AMPK and increases nitric oxide production from endothelial nitric oxide synthase.

Here is the lower right part enlarged:-


The above chart, while complex does not give the complete picture regarding PPAR.

It appears that the type of PPAR that is needed to activate PGC-1α  is actually PPARδ  (PPAR delta). For a long time researchers thought it was PPAR α (PPAR alpha).

PGC-1 alpha induces mitochondrial biogenesis in muscle and its activity has been related to insulin sensitization. Here, we report that fibrates induce PGC-1 alpha gene expression in muscle both in vivo and in vitro. However, only activation via PPAR delta but not PPAR alpha underlies this effect. PPAR delta induces PGC-1 alpha gene transcription through a PPAR-response element in the PGC-1 alpha promoter. Moreover, PGC-1 alpha coactivates the PPAR delta-responsiveness of its own gene. A further positive autoregulatory loop of control relies on the induction of PPAR6 expression by PGC-1 alpha. These data point to a distinct value of PPARdelta rather than PPAR alpha agonists in the improvement of oxidative metabolism in muscle.

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs)

There was a post in this blog a long time ago about all the PPARs. There are three types (alpha, delta and gamma) just to confuse us, sometimes delta is called beta.

  • α (alpha) - expressed in liver, kidney, heart, muscle, adipose tissue, and others
  • β/δ (beta/delta) - expressed in many tissues but markedly in brain, adipose tissue, and skin
  • γ (gamma) - although transcribed by the same gene, this PPAR through is expressed in three forms:
    • γ1 - expressed in virtually all tissues, including heart, muscle, colon, kidney, pancreas, and spleen
    • γ2 - expressed mainly in adipose tissue
    • γ3 - expressed in macrophages, large intestine, white adipose tissue.

It does seem that activating alpha, gamma and delta has potential benefit.

The PPAR alpha agonist PEA is available as a supplement and as food for medical purposes In Italy and Spain.  It has been proposed for various inflammatory and pain syndromes. A large trial at a Skoda car factory in 1972 showed that PEA was protective against flu and the common cold.

Fibrate drugs are PPAR alpha agonist drugs used to lower cholesterol. A key point here is that these drugs also activate other types of PPAR as well.
PPAR gamma agonists are widely used to treat diabetes.  They improve insulin sensitivity and decrease some inflammatory responses. They lower cholesterol.
PPAR delta has various antidiabetic effects and agonism of PPAR delta changes the body's fuel preference from glucose to lipids. Recently it was shown that PPAR delta can be activated to promote biogenesis of mitochondria.
It does appear likely that there is some interaction between the PPARs.
Using the mild PPAR gamma agonist, Sytrinol, which gives a long term cholesterol lowering effect, gives a short term cognitive and behavioral improvement in autism.
Pioglitazone is used to lower glucose levels in type 2 diabetes and is a PPAR gamma agonist.  It has been shown to have a positive effect in autism and more trials are in progress. It also binds to a lesser extent to PPAR alpha.
Our reader Maja is investigating whether Sytrinol will maintain its initial good effect when combined with a mild PPAR alpha agonist, like PEA. 

Pan-agonists of PPAR

Bezafibrate appears to be the best known “pan-agonist” of PPAR alpha, gamma and delta.

The PPARpan-agonist bezafibrate ameliorates cardiomyopathy in a mouse model of Barth syndrome 

Bezafibrate as treatment option in patients with mitochondrial complex I (CI) deficiency

These results support bezafibrate as a promising treatment option for specific subgroups of patients with CI deficiency.

Less well known is the natural substance Berberine. 

The multifaceted drug Telmisartan, from a recent post, is also a pan-agonist of PPARs. It is usually quoted as being a PPAR delta agonist. 


The drug AICAR is thought of as an AMPK activator rather than a PPAR agonist, but it does affect all three types of PPAR.

Treatment with AICAR induced gene expression of all three PPARs, but only the Ppara and Pparg regulation were dependent on AMPK.


It looks like some athletes, seeking an advantage, are already using the above strategies to improve their exercise endurance; having more mitochondria is of course a competitive advantage.  A list of all the substances banned in sport might be another good source of therapies not only for autism, but also dementia.
Since mitochondrial dysfunction is a feature of Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s there are some investigations ongoing. There is even a trial to perk up the mitochondria in people with Bipolar using Bezafibrate.
It is odd that Sytrinol has only a short term positive effect in most people with autism, although our reader RG’s daughter has a long term benefit. I suspect some people may need a pan-agonist, there may be some interaction/crosstalk/ feedback that we are not aware of.
It would be nice to have some data on the relative potency of Bezafibrate,  Telmisartan and Berberine across alpha, delta and gamma receptors, otherwise we are left with trial and error.
The advantage of Berberine is that it is an OTC supplement.
AICAR is also interesting.