Epigenetic changes to fat cells following exercise

July 3, 2013

Exercise, even in small doses, changes the expression of our innate DNA. New research from Lund University in Sweden has described for the first time what happens on an epigenetic level in fat cells when we undertake physical activity.

"Our study shows the positive effects of exercise, because the epigenetic pattern of genes that affect fat storage in the body changes", says Charlotte Ling, Associate Professor at Lund University Diabetes Centre.

The cells of the body contain DNA, which contains genes. We inherit our genes and they cannot be changed. The genes, however, have '' attached which affect what is known as '' – whether the genes are activated or deactivated. The methyl groups can be influenced in various ways, through exercise, diet and lifestyle, in a process known as 'DNA methylation'. This is epigenetics, a relatively new research field that in recent years has attracted more and more attention.

In the study, the researchers investigated what happened to the methyl groups in the of 23 slightly overweight, healthy men aged around 35 who had not previously engaged in any , when they regularly attended spinning and aerobics classes over a six-month period.

"They were supposed to attend three sessions a week, but they went on average 1.8 times", says Tina Rönn, Associate Researcher at Lund University.

Using technology that analyses 480 000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that had taken place in 7 000 genes (an individual has 20 000 genes).

They then went on to look specifically at the methylation in genes linked to and obesity.

"We found changes in those genes too, which suggests that altered DNA methylation as a result of physical activity could be one of the mechanisms of how these genes affect the risk of disease", says Tina Rönn, adding that this has never before been studied in fat cells and that they now have a map of the DNA methylome in fat.

In the laboratory, the researchers were able to confirm the findings in vitro (studying cell cultures in test tubes) by deactivating certain genes and thus reducing their expression. This resulted in changes in fat storage in fat cells.

Explore further: New clues in hunt for heredity in type 2 diabetes

More information: A Six Months Exercise Intervention Influences the Genome-wide DNA Methylation Pattern in Human Adipose Tissue, PLOS Genetics, June 2013

Related Stories

New clues in hunt for heredity in type 2 diabetes

March 19, 2013
Type 2 diabetes has strong hereditary tendencies and the genes we are born with cannot be changed. However, new research from Lund University in Sweden shows that we can modify the function of the genes through the epigenetic ...

Experts find epigenetic changes moderate reality distortion in schizophrenia patients

June 10, 2013
A study in Schizophrenia Bulletin is among the first to indicate epigenetic changes related to immune function in schizophrenia. DNA methylation, a process involving the addition of a methyl group to the DNA without changing ...

Epigenomic abnormalities predict patient survival in non-Hodgkins lymphoma

January 10, 2013
Think of the epigenome like a giant musical mixing board, turning up or down the expression of various genes. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published today in the journal PLOS Genetics shows that in cancer, ...

Weight loss surgery not only shrinks waists but also affects genes

April 11, 2013
Gastric bypass surgery can drastically reduce the body weight of obese individuals in a short timeframe. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the surgery also leads to early remission of type 2 diabetes in the vast majority ...

Some fat cells can feel the cold

July 2, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—To survive in cold environments, mammals burn fat to produce heat. The breakdown of fat helps prevent obesity and related metabolic diseases, such as diabetes. Bruce Spiegelman and his colleagues at Harvard ...

Epigenetic factor likely plays a key role in fueling most common childhood cancer

June 10, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Changes in an epigenetic mechanism that turns expression of genes on and off may be as important as genetic alterations in causing pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), according to a study led ...

Recommended for you

Scientists provide insight into genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders

July 21, 2017
A study by scientists at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is providing insight into the genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. In this research, the first mouse model of a mutation ...

Scientists identify new way cells turn off genes

July 19, 2017
Cells have more than one trick up their sleeve for controlling certain genes that regulate fetal growth and development.

South Asian genomes could be boon for disease research, scientists say

July 18, 2017
The Indian subcontinent's massive population is nearing 1.5 billion according to recent accounts. But that population is far from monolithic; it's made up of nearly 5,000 well-defined sub-groups, making the region one of ...

Mutant yeast reveals details of the aberrant genomic machinery of children's high-grade gliomas

July 18, 2017
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital biologists have used engineered yeast cells to discover how a mutation that is frequently found in pediatric brain tumor high-grade glioma triggers a cascade of genomic malfunctions.

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Newly discovered gene variants link innate immunity and Alzheimer's disease

July 17, 2017
Three new gene variants, found in a genome wide association study of Alzheimer's disease (AD), point to the brain's immune cells in the onset of the disorder. These genes encode three proteins that are found in microglia, ...

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.