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This article has been peer reviewed and is published in PLoS One 2011, 6(5). The published version is available at DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019724. © Public Library of Science


Pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4) inhibition by nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is related to a shift towards increased glycolysis during cardiac pathological processes such as cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure. The transcription factors estrogen-related receptor-α (ERRα) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) regulate PDK4 expression through the potent transcriptional coactivator PPARγ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α). NF-κB activation in AC16 cardiac cells inhibit ERRα and PPARβ/δ transcriptional activity, resulting in reduced PGC-1α and PDK4 expression, and an enhanced glucose oxidation rate. However, addition of the NF-κB inhibitor parthenolide to these cells prevents the downregulation of PDK4 expression but not ERRα and PPARβ/δ DNA binding activity, thus suggesting that additional transcription factors are regulating PDK4. Interestingly, a recent study has demonstrated that the transcription factor E2F1, which is crucial for cell cycle control, may regulate PDK4 expression. Given that NF-κB may antagonize the transcriptional activity of E2F1 in cardiac myocytes, we sought to study whether inflammatory processes driven by NF-κB can downregulate PDK4 expression in human cardiac AC16 cells through E2F1 inhibition. Protein coimmunoprecipitation indicated that PDK4 downregulation entailed enhanced physical interaction between the p65 subunit of NF-κB and E2F1. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses demonstrated that p65 translocation into the nucleus prevented the recruitment of E2F1 to the PDK4 promoter and its subsequent E2F1-dependent gene transcription. Interestingly, the NF-κB inhibitor parthenolide prevented the inhibition of E2F1, while E2F1 overexpression reduced interleukin expression in stimulated cardiac cells. Based on these findings, we propose that NF-κB acts as a molecular switch that regulates E2F1-dependent PDK4 gene transcription.