Deleting the gene, called IKKE, also appears to protect mice against conditions that, in humans, lead to Type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity and is on the rise among Americans, including children and adolescents.
If follow-up studies show that IKKE is tied to obesity in humans, the gene and the protein it makes will be prime targets for the development of drugs to treat obesity, diabetes and complications associated with those disorders, said Alan Saltiel, the Mary Sue Coleman Director of the U-M Life Sciences Institute.
"We've studied other genes associated with obesity – we call them 'obesogenes' – but this is the first one we've found that, when deleted, stops the animal from gaining weight," said Saltiel, senior author of a paper to be published in the Sept. 4 edition of the journal Cell.
"The fact that you can disrupt all the effects of a high-fat diet by deleting this one gene in mice is pretty interesting and surprising," he said.
Obesity is associated with a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation that leads to insulin resistance, which is usually the first step in the development of Type 2 diabetes. In the Cell paper, Saltiel and his colleagues show that deleting, or "knocking out," the IKKE gene not only protected high-fat-diet mice from obesity, it prevented chronic inflammation, a fatty liver and insulin resistance, as well.
The high-fat-diet mice were fed a lard-like substance with 45 percent of its calories from fat. Control mice were fed standard chow with 4.5 percent of its calories from fat. The dietary regimen began when the mice were 8 weeks old and continued for 14 to 16 weeks.
The gene IKKE produces a protein kinase also known as IKKE. Protein kinases are enzymes that turn other proteins on or off. The IKKE protein kinase appears to target proteins which, in turn, control genes that regulate the mouse metabolism.
When the high-fat diet is fed to a normal mouse, IKKE protein-kinase levels rise, the metabolic rate slows, and the animal gains weight. In that situation, the IKKE protein kinase acts as a brake on the metabolism.
Knockout mice placed on the high-fat diet did not gain weight, apparently because deleting the IKKE gene releases the metabolic brake, allowing it to speed up and burn more calories, instead of storing those calories as fat.
"The knockout mice are not exercising any more than the control mice used in the study. They're just burning more energy," Saltiel said. "And in the process, they're generating a little heat, as well – their body temperature actually increases a bit."
Saltiel's team is now searching for small molecules that block IKKE protein-kinase activity. IKKE inhibitors could become candidates for drug development.
"If you find an inhibitor of this protein kinase, you should be able to obtain the same effect as knocking out the gene. And that's the goal," Saltiel said. If successful candidates are identified and drug development is pursued, a new treatment for obesity and diabetes is likely a decade away, he said.
First author of the Cell paper is Shian-Huey Chiang of the Life Sciences Institute. Co-authors are U-M researchers Merlijn Bazuine, Carey Lumeng, Lynn Geletka, Jonathan Mowers, Nicole White, Jing-Tyan Ma, Jie Zhou, Nathan Qi, Dan Westcott and Jennifer Delproposto. Timothy Blackwell and Fiona Yull of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine also are co-authors.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association. All animal use was conducted in compliance with the Institute of Laboratory Animal Research's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and was approved by the University Committee on Use and Care of Animals at the University of Michigan.
Related links:Life Sciences Institute:
Jim Erickson | EurekAlert!
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences