Breakthrough In Understanding The Biology Of Fat-- UCSF/Gladstone Scientists Discover Gene For Key Enzyme

Not only do Americans consume a lot of fat, they are consumed by how to control it.

Now a research team led by scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and the University of California San Francisco has discovered a major piece in the puzzle of how our bodies build and regulate fat.

The researchers have found a gene that encodes DGAT, a key enzyme in fat production. Their study results are published today (October 27) in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Known officially as acyl CoA:diacylglycerol acyltransferase, the DGAT enzyme joins other smaller molecules to produce, or synthesize, a specific group of fats called triglycerides. Triglycerides are one of the major lipids (fats) found in the bloodstream, and they constitute more than 95 percent of the fat stored in the adipose (fat) tissue of mammals, thereby serving as the major source of stored energy.

"This finding has implications for many aspects of biology," said Robert V. Farese, Jr., MD, Gladstone scientist and UCSF assistant professor of medicine, who is principal investigator of the study. "Identifying a gene encoding DGAT gives us a valuable tool to evaluate this enzyme and to explore triglyceride synthesis as it relates to human energy cycles, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. The finding also may have implications for potential development of drug therapies aimed at lowering triglyceride levels or treating obesity."

Because of its role in fat synthesis and energy storage, DGAT is thought to be a major player in the absorption of fats in the intestine, regulation of triglyceride concentrations in blood plasma, fat storage in fat cells, energy metabolism in muscle cells, and triglyceride synthesis involved in milk and egg production, according to Farese.

"In future research efforts we want to focus on determining the role that DGAT plays in these processes in mammals," he said.


Contact: Corinna Kaarlela
University of California - San Francisco

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