Genetic study links body clock receptor to diabetes

January 29, 2012

A study published in Nature Genetics today has found new evidence for a link between the body clock hormone melatonin and type 2 diabetes. The study found that people who carry rare genetic mutations in the receptor for melatonin have a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

The findings should help scientists to more accurately assess personal and could lead to the development of personalised treatments.

Previous research has found that people who work night shifts have a higher risk of and heart disease. Studies have also found that if volunteers have their sleep disrupted repeatedly for three days, they temporarily develop symptoms of diabetes.

The body's sleep-wake cycle is controlled by the hormone melatonin, which has effects including drowsiness and lowering body temperature. In 2008, a genetic study led by Imperial College London discovered that people with common variations in the gene for MT2, a receptor for melatonin, have a slightly higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

The new study reveals that carrying any of four rare mutations in the MT2 gene increases a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes six times. The release of insulin, which regulates , is known to be regulated by melatonin. The researchers suggest that mutations in the MT2 gene may disrupt the link between the and , leading to abnormal control of blood sugar.

Professor Philippe Froguel, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who led the study, said: " is one of the many processes regulated by the body's . This study adds to our understanding of how the gene that carries the blueprint for a key component in the clock can influence people's risk of diabetes.

"We found very rare variants of the MT2 gene that have a much larger effect than more common variants discovered before. Although each mutation is rare, they are common in the sense that everyone has a lot of very rare mutations in their DNA. Cataloguing these mutations will enable us to much more accurately assess a person's risk of disease based on their genetics."

In the study, the Imperial team and their collaborators at several institutions in the UK and France examined the MT2 gene in 7,632 people to look for more unusual variants that have a bigger effect on disease risk. They found 40 variants associated with type 2 diabetes, four of which were very rare and rendered the receptor completely incapable of responding to melatonin. The scientists then confirmed the link with these four variants in an additional sample of 11,854 people.

Professor Froguel and his team analysed each mutation by testing what effect they have on the MT2 receptor in human cells in the lab. The mutations that completely prevented the receptor from working proved to have a very big effect on diabetes risk, suggesting that there is a direct link between MT2 and the disease.

Explore further: Tireless research reveals secrets of the 'sleep hormone'

More information: A. Bonnefond et al. 'Rare MTNR1B variants impairing melatonin receptor 1B function contribute to type 2 diabetes' Nature Genetics, published online 29 January 2012.

Related Stories

Tireless research reveals secrets of the 'sleep hormone'

December 13, 2011
A team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University has made a major breakthrough by unraveling the inner workings of melatonin, also known as the "sleep hormone." The ...

Recommended for you

Controlling diabetes with your phone might be possible someday

November 21, 2017
Think about this. You have diabetes, are trying to control your insulin levels and instead of taking a pill or giving yourself an injection, you click an app on your phone that tells your pancreas to bring blood sugar levels ...

Insulin pill may delay type 1 diabetes in some

November 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—It's often said that timing is everything. New research suggests this may be true when giving an insulin pill to try to prevent or delay type 1 diabetes.

Simple test predicts diabetes remission following weight loss surgery

November 21, 2017
A new simple test that helps predicts which people with type 2 diabetes will benefit most from weight loss surgery has been developed by a UCL-led team.

Pre-diabetes discovery marks step towards precision medicine

November 20, 2017
Researchers from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre have identified three specific molecules that accurately indicate insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes - a major predictor of metabolic syndrome, the collection ...

Scientists reverse diabetes in a mouse model using modified blood stem cells

November 15, 2017
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have successfully reversed type 1 diabetes in a mouse model by infusing blood stem cells pre-treated to produce more of a protein called PD-L1, which is deficient in mice (and people) ...

Pregnancy-related conditions taken together leave moms—and dads—at risk

November 14, 2017
Research has already shown that women who develop either diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy are at risk of getting type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease years later. Now, a new study from a team ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.