Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPAR-alpha) is the major regulator of fatty acid oxidation in the liver. PPARalpha is also the target of fibrate drugs used to treat abnormal plasma lipid levels.
PPAR-alpha is a type II nuclear receptor (its subcellular location does not depend on ligand binding). PPAR-alpha forms heterodimers with Retinoid X receptor alpha (RXR-alpha), another type II nuclear receptor. PPAR-alpha is activated by binding fatty acid ligands, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids having 18-22 carbon groups and 2-6 double bonds.
The PPAR-alpha:RXR-alpha heterodimer binds peroxisome proliferator receptor elements (PPREs) in and around target genes. Binding of fatty acids and synthetic ligands causes a conformational change in PPAR-alpha such that it releases the corepressors and binds coactivators (CBP-SRC-HAT complex, ASC complex, and TRAP-Mediator complex) which initiate transcription of the target genes.
Target genes of PPAR-alpha participate in fatty acid transport, fatty acid oxidation, triglyceride clearance, lipoprotein production, and cholesterol homeostasis.