How a Hormone Leads to Obesity
Researchers may have uncovered the key to how an obesity-linked hormone interacts with the brain. The discovery could pave the way for more effective treatments of obesity and other disorders.
The hormone, leptin, regulates the intake and use of energy in the body through a process involving a brain receptor. Obesity has already been linked to a low level of leptin or a resistance to it. But scientists have been puzzled about exactly how, for some people, leptin fails to efficiently interact with its brain receptor.
Now, though, a study conducted at the University of Michigan’s Life Sciences Institute has captured the first picture of how that interaction occurs.
Through electron microscopy, researcher Georgios Skiniotis found that once the leptin interacts with the receptor, the receptor’s two “legs” become rigid and signal an enzyme called the Janus kinase.
The Janus kinase has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis as well as obesity. Therefore, decreasing the activity that occurs in its response to the receptor could lead to improved treatment for those disorders.
Alan Saltiel, director of the Life Sciences Institute, said the discovery has far-reaching implications. "Since leptin is a master regulator of appetite,” he said in a statement, “understanding why resistance to its effects develops in obesity has been a major obstacle to discovering new drugs for obesity and diabetes. Developing a clear picture of how leptin can bind to its receptor may be the first step in overcoming leptin resistance."
The findings were published in the journal “Molecular Cell.”