The level of a simple substance in a small brain region may act as a crucial signal in the regulation of body weight, reports a study in the February 2006 issue of Nature Neuroscience.
Complex cross-talk between the brain and the gut regulates food consumption and body weight. The primary regulators of eating and weight gain or loss in the brain are a group of nerve cells in the hypothalamus. High levels of fatty acids in this brain region have been reported to act as a signal to stop eating. In the new study, Luciano Rossetti and colleagues used a virus vector to reduce levels of malonyl-CoA in this part of the hypothalamus. malonyl-CoA inhibits the breakdown of fatty acids into energy, so reducing malonyl-CoA resulted in chronically low levels of fatty acids. This caused the animals to overeat, apparently by resetting the finely balanced nutrient sensor in the brain.
These results suggest that elevating levels of malonyl CoA in the hypothalamus might be beneficial in the treatment of overweight patients. The enzymes that produce malonyl-CoA might therefore be promising targets for anti-obesity drugs.
Luciano Rossetti (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
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