Molecular link between body weight, early puberty identified

October 11, 2018 by Franny White, Oregon Health & Science University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Becoming overweight at a young age can trigger a molecular chain reaction that leads some girls to experience puberty early, according to new research published in Nature Communications.

Scientists have discovered a molecular mechanism that leads overweight female to have early-onset .

"Knowing how nutrition and specific molecules play a role in starting puberty early could one day help physicians prevent the condition in humans," said one of the study's corresponding authors, Alejandro Lomniczi, Ph.D., a research assistant professor at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Girls have been experiencing puberty earlier in life for the last 150 years or so, with 12.5 years being the average age girls start puberty today. Early-onset puberty can lead girls to experience health problems later, including increased incidence of ovarian, uterine and breast cancers, as well as being at a higher risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

But the human genome—the complete set of nucleic acid sequences in human DNA—hasn't changed substantially in the past 150 years. So Lomniczi and colleagues are now exploring if the difference might be due to epigenetics, or changes caused by rather than changes in the genetic code itself. Gene expression is when make functional products such as proteins.

Lomniczi's previous research identified two that keep puberty in check when rodents and nonhuman primates are young. This new study builds on that earlier work by specifically examining how gene expression and body weight are involved in puberty in rats.

For this study, the team raised three kinds of female rats: overweight, lean and average-sized. While focusing on the hypothalamus, the bottom part of the brain that controls reproductive development, they found that a puberty-activating gene called Kiss1 was expressed differently in each rat type.

Lomniczi and colleagues identified the enzyme SIRT1 in the hypothalamus as being a key player in transmitting body weight information to the brain. In overweight rats, there is less SIRT1 in the hypothalamus, allowing the Kiss1 gene to be expressed earlier, leading the rats to undergo puberty early. In lean rats, SIRT1 is higher for a prolonged period of time, taking longer for Kiss1 gene activation, which delayed puberty in those rats.

Lomniczi continues to explore the causes of early-onset puberty through animal model studies. He's also examining how the circadian clock and endocrine disruptors might play a role.

Explore further: Epigenetics helps explain early-onset puberty in females

More information: M. J. Vazquez et al, SIRT1 mediates obesity- and nutrient-dependent perturbation of pubertal timing by epigenetically controlling Kiss1 expression, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06459-9

Related Stories

Epigenetics helps explain early-onset puberty in females

January 29, 2013
New research from Oregon Health & Science University has provided significant insight into the reasons why early-onset puberty occurs in females. The research, which was conducted at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research ...

Researchers elucidate network of genes that control when puberty begins

December 16, 2015
In expanding our knowledge of how the brain controls the process of sexual development, researchers at Oregon Healthy & Science University and the University of Pittsburgh have identified for the first time members of an ...

Change in BMI during puberty tied to later heart failure risk

March 30, 2018
(HealthDay)—Change in body mass index (BMI) to overweight during puberty significantly increases men's risk of heart failure later in life, according to a study published online March 12 in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Touching helps build the sexual brain

September 21, 2017
Hormones or sexual experience? Which of these is crucial for the onset of puberty? It seems that when rats are touched on their genitals, their brain changes and puberty accelerates. In a new study publishing September 21 ...

Researchers identify possible link between the environment and puberty

June 28, 2016
Danish researchers have discovered a possible epigenetic link between the environment and pubertal timing. To a large extent, pubertal timing is heritable, but the underlying genetic causes are still unexplained. Researchers ...

Faulty gene can delay or block puberty

March 26, 2014
More than 4% of adolescents suffer from early or late-onset puberty, which is associated with health problems including obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The findings of the study will make diagnosis easier ...

Recommended for you

Juul e-cigarettes pose addiction risk for young users, study finds

October 19, 2018
Teens and young adults who use Juul brand e-cigarettes are failing to recognize the product's addictive potential, despite using it more often than their peers who smoke conventional cigarettes, according to a new study by ...

Self-lubricating latex could boost condom use: study

October 17, 2018
A perpetually unctuous, self-lubricating latex developed by a team of scientists in Boston could boost the use of condoms, they reported Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Engineered enzyme eliminates nicotine addiction in preclinical tests

October 17, 2018
Scientists at Scripps Research have successfully tested a potential new smoking-cessation treatment in rodents.

Nutrition has a greater impact on bone strength than exercise

October 17, 2018
One question that scientists and fitness experts alike would love to answer is whether exercise or nutrition has a bigger positive impact on bone strength.

How healthy will we be in 2040?

October 17, 2018
A new scientific study of forecasts and alternative scenarios for life expectancy and major causes of death in 2040 shows all countries are likely to experience at least a slight increase in lifespans. In contrast, one scenario ...

Study finds evidence of intergenerational transmission of trauma among ex-POWs from the Civil War

October 16, 2018
A trio of researchers affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research has found evidence that suggests men who were traumatized while POWs during the U.S. Civil War transmitted that trauma to their offspring—many ...

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.