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Ciglitazone - a human PPARγ agonist - disrupts dorsoventral patterning in zebrafish

Cheng V, Dasgupta S, Reddam A, Volz DC
PeerJ. 2019;7:e8054 doi:10.7717/peerj.8054
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that regulates lipid/glucose homeostasis and adipocyte differentiation. While the role of PPARγ in adipogenesis and diabetes has been extensively studied, little is known about PPARγ function during early embryonic development. Within zebrafish, maternally-loaded pparγ transcripts are present within the first 6 h post-fertilization (hpf), and de novo transcription of zygotic pparγ commences at ~48 hpf. Since maternal pparγ transcripts are elevated during a critical window of cell fate specification, the objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that PPARγ regulates gastrulation and dorsoventral patterning during zebrafish embryogenesis. To accomplish this objective, we relied on (1) ciglitazone as a potent PPARγ agonist and (2) a splice-blocking, pparγ-specific morpholino to knockdown pparγ. We found that initiation of ciglitazone—a potent human PPARγ agonist—exposure by 4 hpf resulted in concentration-dependent effects on dorsoventral patterning in the absence of epiboly defects during gastrulation, leading to ventralized embryos by 24 hpf. Interestingly, ciglitazone-induced ventralization was reversed by co-exposure with dorsomorphin, a bone morphogenetic protein signaling inhibitor that induces strong dorsalization within zebrafish embryos. Moreover, mRNA-sequencing revealed that lipid- and cholesterol-related processes were affected by exposure to ciglitazone. However, pparγ knockdown did not block ciglitazone-induced ventralization, suggesting that PPARγ is not required for dorsoventral patterning nor involved in ciglitazone-induced toxicity within zebrafish embryos. Our findings point to a novel, PPARγ-independent mechanism of action and phenotype following ciglitazone exposure during early embryonic development.
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