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Researchers have identified thousands of small proteins related to metabolism in mice, with one called Gm8773 found to boost appetite. This finding could lead to novel strategies for enhancing weight gain in individuals with conditions like cancer and metabolic disorders.

The United States faces a prevalent issue with obesity and metabolic diseases such as diabetes. However, there remains a significant knowledge gap concerning microproteins, small proteins present in brown and white fat, which seem to influence metabolism.

Microproteins involved in fat tissue metabolism key to one’s appetite

Professor Alan Saghatelian, at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies emphasized the importance of comprehending the mechanisms governing obesity and metabolic health. The study he co-authored unveils a list of microproteins which could facilitate the discovery of new elements in metabolic diseases. The research highlights a specific microprotein that stimulates feeding and others involved in fat metabolism.

Fat tissue contains proteins related to feeding, heat production and energy balance. There are two types of fat: white fat, considered “bad fat,” responsible for abdominal bulges and excess weight due to energy storage, and brown fat, known as “good fat,” located around the shoulders and spinal cord, which promotes health and is associated with good nutrition, exercise, and overall well-being.

The researchers analyzed genes from different types of fat cells in mice and identified 3,877 microproteins involved in fat tissue metabolism, particularly affected by a high-fat diet. Thomas Martinez from Saghatelian’s lab, now at UC Irvine, emphasized the significance of their findings for understanding metabolic pathways.

FAM237B in humans regulates feeding

Researchers focused on Gm8773, located in the hypothalamus, a brain region regulating feeding. Introducing Gm8773 microprotein to obese mice increased their food intake, indicating its role in appetite. The human counterpart, FAM237B, likely shares this function.

Chris Barnes from Velia Therapeutics said that the discovery holds promise for metabolism and fat biology studies, fostering new experimental avenues and potentially uncovering novel biological mechanisms.

Researchers hope that Gm8773 and its human equivalent can aid in developing methods to boost metabolism and appetite, particularly for cancer patients enduring chemotherapy side effects.