Gene That Links Obesity And Immunity Uncovered

Scientists from New Zealand and Australia have discovered a gene that links the immune system with obesity.

Asian Scientist (Aug. 20, 2013) – Scientists from New Zealand and Australia have discovered a gene that links the immune system with obesity. The finding may point the way to a new strategy to fight the worldwide obesity epidemic.

The study, published in Cell Metabolism, found that the IRG1 gene is a vital part of the immuno-metabolic reaction in cells, connecting the immune response to infection with cell metabolism.

“New research into obesity and its associated diseases has revealed activation of the immune system, and subsequent inflammation, as a major driver of these conditions”, said Professor Phil Crosier, senior author of the study.

“One way that metabolic and immunological pathways intersect during inflammation is the influence of intracellular metabolism on immune cell function.”

The researchers used live imaging within transparent zebrafish embryos to uncover a new mechanism that controls immune cell function by the activity of a mitochondrial enzyme (encoded by the IRG1 gene) that helps regulate mitochondrial metabolism of fatty acids.

Fatty acids are used to fuel the inflammatory response via the mitochondria (which are the energy factories in cells) and can enhance metabolic and immune function of white blood cells.

“We believe this pathway represents a target to manipulate the interface between the immune and metabolic systems that may prove useful for treating obesity-associated diseases,” said Crosier.

The article can be found at: Hall et al. (2013) Immunoresponsive Gene 1 Augments Bactericidal Activity Of Macrophage-Lineage Cells By Regulating β-Oxidation-Dependent Mitochondrial ROS Production.


Source: University of Auckland; Photo: snre/Flickr/CC.
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