Washington: A new study has revealed that a protein in the brain helps regulate food intake and body weight.
The findings reveal a potential new avenue for the treatment of obesity and may help explain why medications that are prescribed for epilepsy and other conditions that interfere with this protein, such as gabapentin and pregabalin, can cause weight gain.
The protein - alpha2/delta-1 - has not been linked previously to obesity.
A team led by Maribel Rios, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine, found that alpha2/delta-1 facilitates the function of another protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
Rios, also a member of the cellular and molecular physiology and neuroscience program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts, said that they know that low levels of the BDNF protein in the brain lead to overeating and dramatic obesity in mice. Deficiencies in
BDNF have also been linked to obesity in humans.
He said that now, they have discovered that the alpha2/delta-1 protein is necessary for normal BDNF function, giving us a potential new target for novel obesity treatments.
Rios and colleagues discovered that low levels of BDNF were associated with decreased function of alpha2/delta-1 in the hypothalamus, a brain region that is critical to the regulation of food intake and weight.
When the team inhibited the alpha2/delta-1 protein in normal mice, mice ate significantly more food and gained weight. Conversely, when the team corrected the alpha 2/delta-1 deficiency in mice with reduced BDNF levels, overeating and weight gain were mitigated. In addition, blood sugar levels (related to diabetes in humans) were normalized.
The study has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.