In obesity, a micro-RNA causes metabolic problems

September 20, 2012
University of Illinois molecular and integrative physiology professor Jongsook Kim Kemper and her colleagues were able to reverse some of the metabolic problems associated with obesity in mice by targeting a micro-RNA. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

Scientists have identified a key molecular player in a chain of events in the body that can lead to fatty liver disease, Type II diabetes and other metabolic abnormalities associated with obesity. By blocking this molecule, the researchers were able to reverse some of the pathology it caused in obese mice.

Their findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

MiR-34a (pronounced MEER-34a), a micro-RNA, occurs at higher than normal levels in the livers of obese animals and in human patients with . In the new study, researchers discovered that miR-34a gums up production of a protein receptor, called beta-Klotho, needed for metabolic signaling in the liver. This hinders normal , glycogen and and other metabolic activities.

In response to signals from the small intestine, beta-Klotho contributes to normal liver function after a meal, said University of Illinois molecular and integrative physiology professor Jongsook Kim Kemper, who led the study. But in obesity, levels of miR-34a surge much higher than normal, resulting in abnormally low levels of beta-Klotho.

"The downstream effect is more glucose in the blood, more fat in the liver," she said.

The effects are dramatic. Slices of from obese mice are laden with fat, whereas normal mice have minimal amounts of fat in their livers.

The researchers used a complementary strand of RNA (called antisense RNA) to neutralize miR-34a in obese mice. This therapeutic approach improved "metabolic outcomes, including decreased liver fat and improved glucose level in the blood," Kemper said.

Explore further: Study shows soy protein alleviates symptoms of fatty liver disease

More information: "Aberrantly Elevated miR-34a in Obesity Attenuates Hepatic Responses to FGF19 by Targeting a Membrane Co-Receptor β-Klotho," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012. www.pnas.org/content/early/201 … /1205951109.abstract

Related Stories

Study shows soy protein alleviates symptoms of fatty liver disease

April 23, 2012
University of Illinois researchers report this week that new research shows how soy protein could significantly reduce fat accumulation and triglycerides in the livers of obese patients by partially restoring the function ...

Study finds faulty fat sensor implicated in obesity and liver disease

February 19, 2012
Defects in a protein that functions as a dietary fat sensor may be a cause of obesity and liver disease, according to a study published in the journal Nature, led by researchers at Imperial College London. The findings highlight ...

Team identifies key protein causing excess liver production of glucose in diabetes

September 28, 2011
Researchers at the John G. Rangos Sr. Research Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have identified a powerful molecular pathway that regulates the liver's ...

Liver, belly fat may identify high risks of heart disease in obese people

July 21, 2011
Obese people with high levels of abdominal fat and liver fat may face increased risks for heart disease and other serious health problems, according to research published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: ...

Recommended for you

Living near fast food outlets linked to weight gain in primary school children

September 11, 2017
Children with greater access to fast food outlets are more likely to gain weight compared to those living further away, new research suggests.

Shedding consistent pounds each week linked to long-term weight loss

August 28, 2017
When it comes to losing weight, it's not necessarily slow, but steady, that wins the race, according to new research from Drexel University.

Kids with weight issues at high risk of emotional and behavioural problems

August 10, 2017
A new, in-depth study of New Zealand children and teenagers seeking help with weight issues has found their emotional health and wellbeing is, on average, markedly worse than that of children without weight issues.

Study finds 90 percent of American men overfat

July 24, 2017
Does your waist measure more than half your height?

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

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.