'Obesity gene' might explain the drive to eat

Is it possible that some of us are just hardwired to eat more?

Researchers from the University of Cambridge believe so, and their recent study reveals that genetic mutations of a particular protein might result in severe obesity.

KSR2

The gene in question is KSR2, which belongs to a group of proteins called scaffolding proteins. Responsible for ensuring that signals from hormones like insulin are correctly processed by cells, the gene essentially regulates how the body uses energy.

Previous studies on KSR2 revealed that when the gene was deleted in mice, the animals became severely obese. To test how the gene acts in humans, researchers analyzed the DNA from more than 2,000 severely obese people and identified multiple mutations of KRS2. A series of experiments on the gene showed that many of the mutations disrupt cellular signals, reducing the ability of cells to use glucose and fatty acids.

Increased drive to eat

Results showed that patients with the KRS2 mutations had an increased desire to eat in their childhood, as well as a reduced metabolic rate. This finding indicates that these people don't effectively use up all the energy they consume.

The findings are the first to prove that some individuals do indeed burn calories at a slower rate than others, as KRS2 can affect a person's metabolic rate.

"Up until now, the genes we have identified that control body weight have largely affected appetite," said Professor Sadaf Farooqi of the University of Cambridge’s Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science. "However, KSR2 is different in that it also plays a role in regulating how energy is used in the body. In the future, modulation of KSR2 may represent a useful therapeutic strategy for obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

The Cambridge team is continuing their research on genetic factors that influence obesity, and results of their recent work can be found in the journal Cell.

Source: Cambridge University

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