Drug Insight: mechanisms of action and therapeutic applications for agonists of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors

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Intensive preclinical investigations have delineated a role for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) in energy metabolism and inflammation. PPARs are activated by natural lipophilic ligands such as fatty acids and their derivatives. Normalization of lipid and glucose metabolism is achieved via pharmacological modulation of PPAR activity. PPARs may also alter atherosclerosis progression through direct effects on the vascular wall. PPARs regulate genes involved in the recruitment of leukocytes to endothelial cells, in vascular inflammation, in macrophage lipid homeostasis, and in thrombosis. PPARs therefore modulate metabolic and inflammatory perturbations that predispose to cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. The hypolipidemic fibrates and the antidiabetic thiazolidinediones are drugs that act via PPARα and PPARγ respectively, and are used in clinical practice. PPARβ/δ ligands are currently in clinical evaluation. The pleiotropic actions of PPARs and the fact that chemically diverse PPAR agonists may induce distinct pharmacological responses have led to the emergence of new concepts for drug design. A more precise understanding of the molecular pathways implicated in the response to chemically distinct PPAR agonists should provide new opportunities for targeted therapeutic applications in the management of the metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

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