Glucagon and cAMP inhibit cholesterol 7alpha-hydroxylase (CYP7A1) gene expression in human hepatocytes: discordant regulation of bile acid synthesis and gluconeogenesis.

Research paper by Kwang-Hoon KH Song, John Y L JY Chiang

Indexed on: 03 Dec '05Published on: 03 Dec '05Published in: Hepatology


The gene encoding cholesterol 7alpha-hydroxylase (CYP7A1) is tightly regulated to control bile acid synthesis and maintain lipid homeostasis. Recent studies in mice suggest that bile acid synthesis is regulated by the fasted-to-fed cycle, and fasting induces CYP7A1 gene expression in parallel to the induction of peroxisome proliferators-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1alpha (PGC-1alpha) and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK). How glucagon regulates CYP7A1 gene expression in the human liver is not clear. Here we show that glucagon and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) strongly repressed CYP7A1 mRNA expression in human primary hepatocytes. Reporter assays confirmed that cAMP and protein kinase A (PKA) inhibited human CYP7A1 gene transcription, in contrast to their stimulation of the PEPCK gene. Mutagenesis analysis identified a PKA-responsive region located within the previously identified HNF4alpha binding site in the human CYP7A1 promoter. Glucagon and cAMP increased HNF4alpha phosphorylation and reduced the amount of HNF4alpha present in CYP7A1 chromatin. Our findings suggest that glucagon inhibited CYP7A1 gene expression via PKA phosphorylation of HNF4alpha, which lost its ability to bind the CYP7A1 gene and resulted in inhibition of human CYP7A1 gene transcription. In conclusion, this study unveils a species difference in nutrient regulation of the human and mouse CYP7A1 gene and suggests a discordant regulation of bile acid synthesis and gluconeogenesis by glucagon in human livers during fasting.