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A novel pathway regulating lipid biosynthesis by fatty acids

January 13, 2024
University of Tsukuba
Sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs) play a crucial role in lipid biosynthesis. In a recent study, researchers identified a novel cleavage enzyme of SREBP-1c, a key player in fatty acid biosynthesis. Moreover, the team unveiled, for the first time, that the biosynthesis process of fatty acid in the liver is activated by saturated fatty acids and inhibited by polyunsaturated fatty acids, providing new insights into the intricate workings of this cleavage system.

Researchers have been studying the transcription factor SREBP, a critical regulator of lipid biosynthesis. Precursor SREBP proteins, located in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of the cell, are transported through the golgi apparatus to the nucleus. Here, they promote the transcription of genes associated with lipid biosynthesis, playing a pivotal role in regulating cholesterol. SREBP-1c, a specific member of the SREBP family, is known to activate fatty acid synthesis. Interestingly, this process is inhibited by polyunsaturated fatty acids. The exact mechanism behind this regulation, however, remains to be elucidated.

The research team elucidated a novel cleavage mechanism of SREBP-1c, a protein involved in fatty acid synthesis, and confirmed its regulation by fatty acids. The cleavage of SREBP-1c occurs in the endoplasmic reticulum, with the rhomboid protease RHBDL4, located in the ER membrane, identified as a new cleavage enzyme for SREBP-1c. This cleavage process is activated by saturated fatty acids and deactivated by polyunsaturated fatty acids, suggesting that RHBDL4's activity is modulated by the type of fatty acid. Additionally, the team discovered a unique mechanism where the VCP complex extracts the cleaved SREBP-1c protein from the endoplasmic reticulum. In the livers of mice deficient in the RHBDL4 gene and fed a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet, the activation of SREBP-1c cleavage was suppressed. This inhibited the expression of a group of target genes involved in fatty acid synthesis, polyunsaturated fatty acid synthesis and uptake, and lipoprotein secretion, which improved fatty liver pathophysiology, as observed in wild-type mice.

The RHBDL4-SREBP-1c pathway, uncovered in this study, represents a lipid homeostasis mechanism regulated by fatty acids. This groundbreaking discovery is anticipated to pave the way for developing new therapeutic strategies for metabolic disorders and lifestyle-related diseases stemming from abnormal lipid metabolism.

This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas program (Inflammation Cellular Sociology) JP17H06395 (to H.S.), Scientific Research (A) 15H02541 and 18H04051 (to H.S.), and Scientific Research (C) 16K01811 and 19K11737 (to S.-I.H.) from the Ministry of Science, Education, Culture, and Technology of Japan; AMED-CREST Grant Number 16gm0910003h0002 (to H.S.) from the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, AMED; and Ono Medical Research Foundation (to S.-I.H.).

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Materials provided by University of Tsukuba. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Song-Iee Han, Masanori Nakakuki, Yoshimi Nakagawa, Yunong Wang, Masaya Araki, Yuta Yamamoto, Hiroaki Tokiwa, Hiroyuki Takeda, Yuhei Mizunoe, Kaori Motomura, Hiroshi Ohno, Kenta Kainoh, Yuki Murayama, Yuichi Aita, Yoshinori Takeuchi, Yoshinori Osaki, Takafumi Miyamoto, Motohiro Sekiya, Takashi Matsuzaka, Naoya Yahagi, Hirohito Sone, Hiroaki Daitoku, Ryuichiro Sato, Hiroyuki Kawano, Hitoshi Shimano. Rhomboid protease RHBDL4/RHBDD1 cleaves SREBP-1c at endoplasmic reticulum monitoring and regulating fatty acids. PNAS Nexus, 2023; 2 (11) DOI: 10.1093/pnasnexus/pgad351

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University of Tsukuba. "A novel pathway regulating lipid biosynthesis by fatty acids." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2024. <>.
University of Tsukuba. (2024, January 13). A novel pathway regulating lipid biosynthesis by fatty acids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2024 from
University of Tsukuba. "A novel pathway regulating lipid biosynthesis by fatty acids." ScienceDaily. (accessed March 2, 2024).

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