Scientists are beginning to understand how OEA, a naturally occurring compound that stops mice from overeating, has its effects. Research in Nature (Vol. 425, No. 6953, dated 4 September 2003, pp. 90-93) reveals that the molecule binds to a receptor known as PPAR-alpha. Molecules designed to target this receptor may prove to be effective treatments for eating disorders.
OEA, or oleylethanolamide, is known to regulate feelings of 'fullness' and body weight. Daniele Piomelli and colleagues show that the molecule binds to the nuclear protein, mimicking the action of other synthetic PPAR-alpha-stimulating drugs. It reduces weight gain in normal mice, but fails to do so in mice lacking PPAR-alpha.
In normal situations, OEA regulates the expression of several genes that are downstream of PPAR-alpha. It initiates the production of proteins that are involved in lipid metabolism and represses an enzyme that may stimulate feeding behaviour.
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