The gene LY86 was among a group of 100 genes identified as likely contributors to obesity through genome-wide association studies comparing the DNA of thousands of obese and lean individuals, said Dr. Shaoyong Su, genetic epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.
Su looked at progressively larger groups of obese versus lean individuals and found LY86 consistently and highly chemically altered, or methylated, in the obese individuals.
"The association is solid; the methylation of this gene is important in obesity," Su said.
It's known that obesity is highly inheritable; that if parents are obese, children are at higher risk.
"However environment, including high-fat foods and chemical exposure, can put you at risk as well," Su said.
Previously LY86 had been known as an inflammation gene and Su's studies show, in fact, that it may be contributing to more than just obesity.
He found high methylation of LY86 also was associated with increased inflammation - a risk factor for a variety of maladies such as heart disease and cancer - as well as insulin resistance, a cause of diabetes.
This association also held up among a group of about 703 subjects that, like the general public, included obese, lean and average-weight individuals.