LncRNA Regulator Of Brown Fat Identified

from Asian Scientist

AsianScientist (Apr. 29, 2015) – A study by researchers in Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS) has shown a new way that brown fat, a potential obesity-fighting target, is regulated in the body. This finding gives researchers and weight-loss companies a possible therapeutic target for obesity.

In a Cell Metabolism article, Duke-NUS Assistant Professor Lei Sun and his team examined long non-coding ribonucleic acid (lncRNA) in adipose (fat) tissue in mice. LncRNAs have recently been recognized as important control elements for different biological functions in the body.

The team created a catalog of 1,500 lncRNA in mouse adipose tissues—the most comprehensive catalog of its type to date. Using the catalog, they were then able to identify a specific long non-coding RNA without which the brown fat cell cannot develop properly, lnc-BATE1. Brown fat is currently under intense study for its potential role in obesity prevention. There are two types of adipose tissue found in the human body—white adipose tissue (white fat) and brown adipose tissue (brown fat).

Brown fat is needed for heat generation in babies, and it was previously believed that as we grow up, our brown fat disappears. However, it is now clear that brown fat can still develop in adults, where it has been shown to speed up metabolism and burn calories.

“We wanted to investigate what makes brown fat unique,” explained Lei, who is from the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases Program at Duke-NUS. “The mechanisms that drive or guide the development of brown fat will have therapeutic potential, and we are excited to have found such a mechanism.

Worldwide, more than 1.9 billion adults are classified as overweight while 600 million of these adults were found to be obese. The worldwide prevalence of obesity has more than doubled between 1980 and 2014. As the proportion of people who are overweight and obese rise, so does the risk of its associated diseases. In fact, most of the world’s population live in countries where being overweight and obese kills more people than being underweight.

The next step before this new knowledge can be applied is to identify such long non-coding RNA in humans. Researchers and pharmaceutical companies can then test ways to exploit long coding RNA to maximize brown fat production in order to speed up weight loss.

The article can be found at: Alvarez-Dominguez et al. (2015) De Novo Reconstruction Of Adipose Tissue Transcriptomes Reveals Long Non-coding RNA Regulators Of Brown Adipocyte Development.

  • Alvarez-Dominguez JR, Bai Z2, Xu D, Yuan B, Lo KA, Yoon MJ, Lim YC, Knoll M, Slavov N, Chen S, Chen P, Lodish HF, Sun L. (2015) De Novo Reconstruction of Adipose Tissue Transcriptomes Reveals Long Non-coding RNA Regulators of Brown Adipocyte Development. Cell Metab 21(5):764-76. [abstract]

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