PLoS One. 2009 Nov 4;4(11):e7728.
The peroxisome proliferator-activator receptor PPARgamma plays an essential role in vascular biology, modulating macrophage function and atherosclerosis progression. Recently, we have described the beneficial effect of combined activation of the ghrelin/GHS-R1a receptor and the scavenger receptor CD36 to induce macrophage cholesterol release through transcriptional activation of PPARgamma. Although the interplay between CD36 and PPARgamma in atherogenesis is well recognized, the contribution of the ghrelin receptor to regulate PPARgamma remains unknown. Here, we demonstrate that ghrelin triggers PPARgamma activation through a concerted signaling cascade involving Erk1/2 and Akt kinases, resulting in enhanced expression of downstream effectors LXRalpha and ABC sterol transporters in human macrophages. These effects were associated with enhanced PPARgamma phosphorylation independently of the inhibitory conserved serine-84. Src tyrosine kinase Fyn was identified as being recruited to GHS-R1a in response to ghrelin, but failure of activated Fyn to enhance PPARgamma Ser-84 specific phosphorylation relied on the concomitant recruitment of docking protein Dok-1, which prevented optimal activation of the Erk1/2 pathway. Also, substitution of Ser-84 preserved the ghrelin-induced PPARgamma activity and responsiveness to Src inhibition, supporting a mechanism independent of Ser-84 in PPARgamma response to ghrelin. Consistent with this, we found that ghrelin promoted the PI3-K/Akt pathway in a Galphaq-dependent manner, resulting in Akt recruitment to PPARgamma, enhanced PPARgamma phosphorylation and activation independently of Ser-84, and increased expression of LXRalpha and ABCA1/G1. Collectively, these results illustrate a complex interplay involving Fyn/Dok-1/Erk and Galphaq/PI3-K/Akt pathways to transduce in a concerted manner responsiveness of PPARgamma to ghrelin in macrophages.