Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α (PPARα) agonists have been shown to have a therapeutic benefit in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model for multiple sclerosis (MS). In this study, we investigated the mechanism by which the PPARα agonist gemfibrozil induces immune deviation and protects mice from EAE. We demonstrated that treatment with gemfibrozil increases expression of the Th2 transcription factor GATA-3 and decreases expression of the Th1 transcription factor T-bet in vitro and directly ex vivo. These changes correlated with an increase in nuclear PPARα expression. Moreover, the protective effects of PPARα agonists in EAE were shown to be partially dependent on IL-4 and to occur in a receptor-dependent manner. PPARα was demonstrated, for the first time, to regulate the IL-4 and IL-5 genes and to bind the IL-4 promoter in the presence of steroid receptor coactivator-1, indicating that PPARα can directly transactivate the IL-4 gene. Finally, therapeutic administration of PPARα agonists ameliorated clinically established EAE, suggesting that PPARα agonists may provide a treatment option for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.
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