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Hormonal and nutritional regulation of alternative CD36 transcripts in rat liver – a role for growth hormone in alternative exon usage

Louisa Cheung1, Malin Andersen2, Carolina Gustavsson1, Jacob Odeberg2, Leandro Fernández-Pérez3, Gunnar Norstedt1 and Petra Tollet-Egnell1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska Hospital, 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Medicine, Atherosclerosis Research Unit, King Gustaf V Research Institute, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska Hospital, 171 76 Stockholm, and Department of Biotechnology, AlbaNova University Center, Royal Institute of Technology, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

3 Department of Clinical Sciences, Molecular and Translational Endocrinology Group, University of Las Palmas of G.C., Las Palmas of G.C., Canary Islands, Spain

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BMC Molecular Biology 2007, 8:60  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-8-60

Published: 17 July 2007



CD36 is a multiligand receptor involved in various metabolic pathways, including cellular uptake of long-chain fatty acids. Defect function or expression of CD36 can result in dyslipidemia or insulin resistance. We have previously shown that CD36 expression is female-predominant in rat liver. In the present study, hormonal and nutritional regulation of hepatic CD36 expression was examined in male and female rats. Since alternative transcription start sites have been described in murine and human Cd36, we investigated whether alternative CD36 transcripts are differentially regulated in rat liver during these conditions.


Sequence information of the rat Cd36 5'-UTR was extended, showing that the gene structure of Cd36 in rat is similar to that previously described in mouse with at least two alternative first exons. The rat Cd36 exon 1a promoter was sequenced and found to be highly similar to murine and human Cd36. We show that alternative first exon usage is involved in the female-predominant expression of CD36 in rat liver and during certain hormonal states that induce CD36 mRNA abundance. Estrogen treatment or continuous infusion of growth hormone (GH) in male rats induced CD36 expression preferentially through the exon 1a promoter. Old age was associated with increased CD36 expression in male rats, albeit without any preferential first exon usage. Intermittent GH treatment in old male rats reversed this effect. Mild starvation (12 hours without food) reduced CD36 expression in female liver, whereas its expression was increased in skeletal muscle.


The results obtained in this study confirm and extend our previous observation that GH is an important regulator of hepatic CD36, and depending on the mode of treatment (continuous or intermittent) the gene might be either induced or repressed. We suggest that the effects of continuous GH secretion in females (which is stimulatory) and intermittent GH secretion in males (which is inhibitory) explains the sex-different expression of this gene. Furthermore, a female-specific repression of hepatic CD36 in response to food deprivation was found, which was in contrast to a stimulatory effect in skeletal muscle. This demonstrates a tissue-specific regulation of Cd36.