The results of a study conducted by a team of specialists from the Baylor College of Medicine (USA) and the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), published in the journal Natural communications.
It has already been established that the SRC-1 protein is somehow involved in the body weight control process, but its role was not clear. By conducting experiments on laboratory mice, the scientists found that the gene with the same name that codes for this protein is extremely active in the cells of the hypothalamus, a brain region responsible, among other things, for feelings of hunger and satiety.
A particularly strong activity of the SRC-1 gene was observed in so-called Pomc neurons. The accumulation of these nerve cells is called the "center of the appetite", since it is they who control appetite and weight. Further experiments showed that the SRC-1 gene regulates the activity of the "appetite center", providing a balance between hunger and satiety, thus preventing weight gain. When SRC-1 was removed from Pomc's neurons, the mice started to eat a lot and suffer from obesity.
Scientists have also studied whether the same effect is observed in humans. They succeeded in identifying a group of children with severe obesity, who was the carrier of 15 rare mutations of the SRC-1 gene. These mutations interrupted the normal functioning of the gene, which led to obesity. The existence of this biological mechanism will be confirmed by an experiment on mice – when, using the methods of genetic engineering in animals, one of the mutations found in children with obesity was artificially reproduced, the mice began to eat too much and quickly to gain weight.
Since the SRC-1 gene plays such an important role in the development of obesity, the targeting effect on it could in the future become a promising therapeutic method, which allows to get rid of excess pounds, they suggested researchers.