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Ronald M Evans Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA, USA

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Vincent Giguère Goodman Cancer Institute, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Department of Biochemistry, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

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Ronald M Evans The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California, USA

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The landmark 1987 discovery of the retinoic acid receptor (RAR) came as a surprise, uncovering a genomic kinship between the fields of vitamin A biology and steroid receptors. This stunning breakthrough triggered a cascade of studies to deconstruct the roles played by the RAR and its natural and synthetic ligands in embryonic development, skin, growth, physiology, vision, and disease as well as providing a template to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which nuclear receptors regulate gene expression. In this review, written from historic and personal perspectives, we highlight the milestones that led to the discovery of the RAR and the subsequent studies that enriched our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms by which a low-abundant dietary compound could be so essential to the generation and maintenance of life itself.

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Yihong Wan Department of Pharmacology, Gene Expression Laboratory, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 6001 Forest Park Road, Room ND8.502B, Dallas, Texas 75390-9041, USA
Department of Pharmacology, Gene Expression Laboratory, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 6001 Forest Park Road, Room ND8.502B, Dallas, Texas 75390-9041, USA

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Ronald M Evans Department of Pharmacology, Gene Expression Laboratory, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 6001 Forest Park Road, Room ND8.502B, Dallas, Texas 75390-9041, USA

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The nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) is a key transcriptional regulator of both lipid metabolism and inflammation. The importance of PPARγ is accentuated by the widespread use of synthetic PPARγ agonists, thiazolidinediones (such as rosiglitazone), as drugs for insulin resistance and type II diabetes. Fractalkine (FKN) and FKN receptor (FR) play an important role in the immune responses by regulating leukocyte migration and adhesion to inflamed peripheral tissues. In this study, we have identified a novel link between PPARγ activation and FKN signaling. On one hand, the activation of PPARγ by rosiglitazone in macrophages not only represses the transcription of the FR gene, but also prevents the plasma membrane translocation of the FR protein. On the other hand, the activation of PPARγ by rosiglitazone in endothelial cells also impedes the nuclear export of FKN. Together, these data suggest that PPARγ activation represses FKN signaling. These findings indicate a previously unrecognized mechanism that may contribute to the anti-inflammatory effect of PPARγ.

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Weiwei Fan Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Annette R Atkins Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Ruth T Yu Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Michael Downes Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Ronald M Evans Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Skeletal muscle is the largest organ in the human body and is the major site for energy expenditure. It exhibits remarkable plasticity in response to physiological stimuli such as exercise. Physical exercise remodels skeletal muscle and enhances its capability to burn calories, which has been shown to be beneficial for many clinical conditions including the metabolic syndrome and cancer. Nuclear receptors (NRs) comprise a class of transcription factors found only in metazoans that regulate major biological processes such as reproduction, development, and metabolism. Recent studies have demonstrated crucial roles for NRs and their co-regulators in the regulation of skeletal muscle energy metabolism and exercise-induced muscle remodeling. While nothing can fully replace exercise, development of exercise mimetics that enhance or even substitute for the beneficial effects of physical exercise would be of great benefit. The unique property of NRs that allows modulation by endogenous or synthetic ligands makes them bona fide therapeutic targets. In this review, we present an overview of the current understanding of the role of NRs and their co-regulators in skeletal muscle oxidative metabolism and summarize recent progress in the development of exercise mimetics that target NRs and their co-regulators.

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Weiwei Fan Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Annette R Atkins Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Ruth T Yu Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Michael Downes Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Ronald M Evans Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
Gene Expression Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

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Christopher E Wall Gene Expression Laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, USA
Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, UC San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA

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Ruth T Yu Gene Expression Laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, USA

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Anne R Atkins Gene Expression Laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, USA

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Michael Downes Gene Expression Laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, USA

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Ronald M Evans Gene Expression Laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, USA
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, USA

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Endurance exercise can lead to systemic improvements in insulin sensitivity and metabolic homeostasis, and is an effective approach to combat metabolic diseases. Pharmacological compounds that recapitulate the beneficial effects of exercise, also known as ‘exercise mimetics’, have the potential to improve disease symptoms of metabolic syndrome. These drugs, which can increase energy expenditure, suppress hepatic gluconeogenesis, and induce insulin sensitization, have accordingly been highly scrutinized for their utility in treating metabolic diseases including diabetes. Nevertheless, the identity of an efficacious exercise mimetic still remains elusive. In this review, we highlight several nuclear receptors and cofactors that are putative molecular targets for exercise mimetics, and review recent studies that provide advancements in our mechanistic understanding of how exercise mimetics exert their beneficial effects. We also discuss evidence from clinical trials using these compounds in human subjects to evaluate their efficacy in treating diabetes.

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