Study identifies MKK6 as a therapeutic target for obesity
Obesity is an increasingly serious problem in many countries in the world. There are an estimated 2.2 billion people being overweight or obese. So, scientists have been trying for years to uncover the secrets of obesity and find treatments for it.
Now a collaborative study led by Spanish scientists has pointed to the MKK6 protein as a potential target for obesity treatments. The scientists have published their findings in a paper titled "MKK6 controls T3-mediated browning of white adipose tissue," appearing online in Nature Communications on 11 Oct. 2017.
Previous studies have established that certain enzymes, known as MKKs
, are activated in human fat tissue during obesity. However, the role of MKK6 remains elusive.
In this work, the lead researcher Guadalupe Sabio from the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) and collaborators investigated the role of MKK6 during obesity induced by a high-fat diet.
First, the researchers measured the levels of MKK6 in the fat tissue of lean and obese mice that ate a high-fat diet and found that these mice had elevated MKK6 levels in their white fat compared with mice that ate a normal diet.
The researchers then carried out an extensive set of experiments in mice that lacked MKK6. The results showed that loss of MKK6 protects against diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. It proved that the activity of MKK6 prevents the browning of white fat, and the loss of MKK6 increases energy expenditure and thermogenic capacity of white fat.
Finally, analyses of MKK6 levels in fat tissue samples from lean and obese people revealed much higher levels of MKK6 in obese people.
Overall, these data show that MKK6 regulates body energy balance by modulating white fat browning.
It's well-established that our body has two major types of fat, white and brown fat. White fat stores energy and increases body weight, whereas brown fat burns fat to produce heat.
The browning of white fat, a process that turns white fat into brown fat, is thought a way to reduce weight. The finding that MKK6 prevents the browning of white fat would point to a new way to develop obesity treatments.