XCT 790 is widely used to inhibit estrogen-related receptor α (ERRα) activity as an inverse agonist. Here, we report that XCT 790 potently activates AMP kinase (AMPK) in a dose-dependent and ERRα-independent manner, with active concentrations more than 25-fold below those typically used to perturb ERRα. AMPK activation is secondary to inhibition of energy production as XCT 790 rapidly depletes the pool of cellular ATP. A concomitant increase in oxygen consumption rates suggests uncoupling of the mitochondrial electron transport chain. Consistent with this, XCT 790 decreased mitochondrial membrane potential without affecting mitochondrial mass. Therefore, XCT 790 is a potent, fast-acting, mitochondrial uncoupler independent of its inhibition of ERRα. The biological activity together with structural features in common with the chemical uncouplers FCCP and CCCP indicates likely mode of action as a proton ionophore.
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