Researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and the University of Chicago discovered data identifying “jumping genes”—associated with the distribution of fat in the abdomen—that are connected to a higher risk for health problems from obesity in women. The findings were published in Nature Genetics.
The group discovered over 100 genes linked to female fat accumulation.
These genes had genetic variations in transposable elements present in apes and humans, so this sexually dimorphic adipose distribution appears late in evolution for primates.”
Dr Ricardo Battaglino, Study Corresponding Author and Professor, Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School
The triglycerides and cholesterol levels in women, which have an impact on cardiovascular health, were shown to be substantially correlated with one of the genes, SNX10, according to the researchers. Only the females lacking SNX10 were resistant to obesity and diet-induced fat growth in tests conducted on animal models. SNX10 was discovered in adipocytes.
This study highlights genes, such as SNX10, and pathways that could be a therapeutic target in emphasizing metabolic consequences of obesity in women by identifying potential genes that govern fat accumulation.
Dr Battaglino added, “The involvement of primate-specific elements in body fat distribution could represent one mechanism for the rapid evolution of this trait within the human lineage. Humans have a body fat phenotype that is unique among great apes, as characterized by increased body fat, especially in women.”
He further stated, “If primate-specific Alu elements, short repetitive sequences in the DNA like a type of ‘jumping gene’ that exist only in primates, are involved in the evolution of human-specific body fat distribution, some gene targets of Alu elements may be missed by approaches that focus on non-primate model organisms.”
The objective of the research team’s current project is to determine how Alu repeats affect the regulatory landscapes of genes related to metabolic characteristics and human disorders in adipocytes and engage in gene regulation in these cells.
The processes that could account for the influence of SNX10 deficiency on the development and operation of adipose tissue will also be a key point of research.
Hansen, G. T., et al. (2023). Genetics of sexually dimorphic adipose distribution in humans. Nature Genetics. doi.org/10.1038/s41588-023-01306-0