Bilirubin Binding to PPARα Inhibits Lipid Accumulation

David E. Stec, Kezia John, Christopher J. Trabbic, Amarjit Luniwal, Michael W. Hankins, Justin Baum, Terry D. Hinds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Numerous clinical and population studies have demonstrated that increased serum bilirubin levels protect against cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Bilirubin is a potent antioxidant, and the beneficial actions of moderate increases in plasma bilirubin have been thought to be due to the antioxidant effects of this bile pigment. In the present study, we found that bilirubin has a new function as a ligand for PPARá.We show that bilirubin can bind directly to PPARá and increase transcriptional activity. When we compared biliverdin, the precursor to bilirubin, on PPARá transcriptional activation to known PPARá ligands, WY 14,643 and fenofibrate, it showed that fenofibrate and biliverdin have similar activation properties. Treatment of 3T3-L1 adipocytes with biliverdin suppressed lipid accumulation and upregulated PPARá target genes.We treated wild-type and PPARá KO mice on a high fat diet with fenofibrate or bilirubin for seven days and found that both signal through PPARá dependent mechanisms. Furthermore, the effect of bilirubin on lowering glucose and reducing body fat percentage was blunted in PPARá KO mice. These data demonstrate a new function for bilirubin as an agonist of PPARá, which mediates the protection from adiposity afforded by moderate increases in bilirubin.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0153427
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Stec et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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