Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Enduring cold temperatures alters fat cell epigenetics

19.04.2018

A new study in fat cells has revealed a molecular mechanism that controls how lifestyle choices and the external environment affect gene expression. This mechanism includes potential targets for next-generation drug discovery efforts to treat metabolic diseases including diabetes and obesity.

Researchers tracked how the epigenome changes after long-term exposure to cold temperatures, and how those changes cause energy-storing white fat cells to become heat-producing brown-like, or "beige," fat cells.


Researchers hope to use this signaling pathway to find treatments for diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Environmental signals can change the epigenetic code of white fat cells in a two-step process. Long-term exposure to cold initiates a change in one protein, JMJD1A. The altered JMJD1A then combines with other protein partners to change the epigenetic code on a gene involved in heat production. White fat cells that have undergone this epigenetic change are called beige fat cells and can contribute to keeping the body warm.

Credit: The University of Tokyo

"We believe that this is the first time that anyone has collected data to prove that there are two steps between the environmental stimuli and epigenetic changes," said Professor Juro Sakai from the University of Tokyo and Tohoku University, an expert in the epigenetics of metabolism.

Gene expression is regulated by epigenetics - patterns of chemical signals that are "above" the gene sequence. An individual's gene sequence is determined at conception, but the external environment and an individual's lifestyle can change the epigenetic sequence throughout a lifetime, continually altering how genes are expressed.

The scientific community has long suspected that there may be a stepwise process inside the cell to manage environmental influences on the epigenome, but no specific molecular mechanisms had been identified previously.

Shivering creates body heat short-term by warming up the muscles, but thermogenesis is the chemical process by which brown fat cells can use lipids (fat) to create heat to keep the body warm long-term. Brown fat is regarded as healthier and is not associated with the metabolic diseases linked to excess white fat.

When organisms are cold for a long time, the sympathetic nervous system responds by releasing adrenaline. If cold temperatures persist, those adrenaline signals eventually reach white fat cells. Step one of the environmental epigenetic control pathway is that the cell initiates a specific change to one amino acid in a protein named JMJD1A and this altered JMJD1A recruits other proteins.

In step two, this JMJD1A protein complex is recruited to genes that initiate thermogenesis and changes their epigenetic pattern so that they are active. Those epigenetic changes transform white fat cells into what researchers refer to as "beige fat cells," which perform thermogenesis like brown fat cells.

More beige fat cells and fewer white fat cells could reduce the symptoms or negative health outcomes of metabolic diseases like diabetes, obesity. Although transforming white fat cells into beige fat cells and increasing thermogenesis is naturally a stress response to chronic cold exposure involving adrenaline, researchers report that the same white-to-beige fat cell transition can be caused without adrenaline or cold stress.

"Understanding how the environment influences metabolism is scientifically, pharmacologically, and medically interesting. Our next experiments will look more closely at epigenetic modifications within the thermogenesis signaling pathway so that we may manipulate it," said Sakai.

Current drugs for metabolic diseases rely on hormones that are systemic throughout the entire body or drugs that target entire proteins. Sakai's research team imagines a future where metabolic diseases can be treated by targeting single amino acids.

The JMJD1A protein is involved in a wide variety of other processes, including cancer, infertility, stem cell renewal, and sex determination of an embryo. However, Sakai's research team has discovered sites within the protein sequence that are extremely specific for controlling different activities of the protein. Manipulating those specific amino acids may provide precision drug targets.

The published study included research using mice and mouse cells. Chronic cold exposure in humans can include living in places that are often below 4oC. In addition to living in cold environments, brown fat thermogenesis is essential for newborn infants anywhere in the world as they acclimatize from the 37oC temperature in the uterus to common room temperature of approximately 23oC.

Media Contact

Ikuko Murayama
press@rcast.u-tokyo.ac.jp
81-354-525-424

 @UTokyo_News_en

http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp 

Ikuko Murayama | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: acids amino acids cold temperatures fat cells

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New sensor detects rare metals used in smartphones
24.04.2019 | Penn State

nachricht Controlling instabilities gives closer look at chemistry from hypersonic vehicles
24.04.2019 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Energy-saving new LED phosphor

The human eye is particularly sensitive to green, but less sensitive to blue and red. Chemists led by Hubert Huppertz at the University of Innsbruck have now developed a new red phosphor whose light is well perceived by the eye. This increases the light yield of white LEDs by around one sixth, which can significantly improve the energy efficiency of lighting systems.

Light emitting diodes or LEDs are only able to produce light of a certain colour. However, white light can be created using different colour mixing processes.

Im Focus: Quantum gas turns supersolid

Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.

Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Proteins stand up to nerve cell regression

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

New sensor detects rare metals used in smartphones

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Controlling instabilities gives closer look at chemistry from hypersonic vehicles

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>