FTO, the gene commonly associated with obesity, may actually contribute to weight gain, a new study has found.
The study shows that variations in FTO indirectly affect the function of the primary cilium, a little-understood hair-like appendage on brain and other cells.
Specific abnormalities of cilium molecules, in turn, increase body weight, in some instances, by affecting the function of receptors for leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite.
The findings, made in mice, suggest that it might be possible to modify obesity through interventions that alter the function of the cilium, according to scientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).
"If our findings are confirmed, they could explain how common genetic variants in the gene FTO affect human body weight and lead to obesity," study leader Rudolph L. Leibel, MD, the Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research, professor of pediatrics and medicine, and co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at CUMC, said.
"The better we can understand the molecular machinery of obesity, the better we will be able to manipulate these mechanisms and help people lose weight," he said.
The study is published in the online edition of Cell Metabolism.