The role of a single molecule in obesity

August 28, 2019

A single cholesterol-derived molecule, called 27-hydroxycholesterol (27HC), lurks inside your bloodstream and will increase your body fat, even if you don't eat a diet filled with red meat and fried food. That kind of diet, however, will increase the levels of 27HC and body weight.

"We found 27HC directly affects white adipose (fat) tissue and increases body fat, even without eating the diet that increases body fat," reports University of Houston assistant professor of biology Michihisa Umetani in the journal Endocrinology. First author of the paper, doctoral student Arvand Asghari, adds, "But it does need some help from the diet to increase body weight because it expands the capacity of the fat already in the body."

Long term applications of the findings could lead researchers to a treatment that reduces the levels of 27HC, which could result in reduced capacity for making fat. "We hope to develop a new therapeutic approach toward modulating 27HC levels to treat cholesterol and/or estrogen receptor-mediated diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, cancer and metabolic diseases," said Umetani, whose lab is part of the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling.

Prior to this research, 27HC was known as an abundant cholesterol metabolite, and Umetani's group has reported its detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system, but its impact on obesity was not well known.

Role of estrogen receptors

Obesity is one of the main risk factors influencing cardiovascular disease worldwide in both men and women and estrogen plays a role in both sexes. Menopause in females, with its accompanying decrease in estrogen, seems to hasten the increase in fat tissue because estrogen protects against adiposity and body weight gain. In men, estrogens are also synthesized locally by conversion of testosterone, so they may also play important roles in the development of fat tissues in males.

"Estrogen receptors (ERα and ERβ) are members of the nuclear receptor superfamily and are present in adipocytes," said Umetani. "Patients with a non-functional ERα are obese, and those that do not have ERα have increased fat tissue even when they eat the same amount of food, indicating that ERα is the important isoform in the regulation of adipose tissue by estrogen."

The main function of 27HC in the liver is to reduce excess cholesterol. Previously, Umetani discovered that 27HC binds to estrogen receptors and acts as an inhibitor of ER action in the vasculature. It turned out that the effects by 27HC are tissue-specific, thus 27HC is the first identified naturally-produced selective estrogen receptor modulator, or SERM.

University of Houston

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to