An ancient enzyme in the brains of mammals acts as an innate nutritionist of sorts, guiding them to make healthy choices about what to eat, according to new work published in the April issue of Cell Metabolism. The molecular mechanism is likely to be important in all mammals, including humans, that eat a varied diet comprised of meat and vegetables, the researchers said.
David Ron, of the New York University School of Medicine, and his colleagues found in mice that an enzyme known as GCN2 kinase sets off a cascade of events that relays information to the brain about the amino acid content of foods, enabling the animals to adjust their intake in favor of a more balanced meal. The same enzyme in yeast also acts as an amino acid sensor, earlier work has shown.
"This ancient pathway in mice recognizes drops in blood amino acid levels that occur following consumption of food with an imbalanced composition," said Ron. "That recognition culminates in a behavioral response that limits consumption of the imbalanced food and favors, by default, a more balanced diet."
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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