Penn State researchers have identified thousands of positions where a molecular master regulator is located in DNA to control genes in fat cells.
Dr. Mitchell Lazar, Director of the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has revealed that the master molecule is called PPAR gamma, a target of anti-diabetic drugs.
The drugs bind to PPAR gamma in the nucleus of fat cells, which affects the expression of many genes, about twenty of which were previously known.
The latest study has uncovered about 5,300 additional sites that PPAR gamma targets in fat-cell DNA.
Since the amount of data is enormous, the researchers believe that it may allow additional insights into how fat-cell genes are regulated.
Until now, we were looking at how PPAR gamma works one gene at a time. It's like we were peering at the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in isolation. Now we can look at the full picture, says Lazar.
This research has the potential to lead to new ways to think about therapies aimed at reducing the number of fat cells or altering fat cell function in ways that reduce the complications of obesity, the researcher adds.
Lazar revealed that one of the objectives of the research was to decrease the side effects of anti-diabetic drugs.
We want to be able to determine which genes we want to affect in one case, but not the other, in order to eliminate unwanted side effects, but keep the positive anti-diabetic effects, the researcher says.
The study has been published online in Genes and Development.