September 21, 2009

Study finds protein link to fat storage

Scottish scientists say they've discovered a protein that's present in all cells in the body could help lead to a better understand of how we store fat.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the protein invadolysin, which is essential for healthy cell division, is present in lipid droplets -- the parts of cells used to store fat. The study also found lower levels of invadolysin were linked to reduced amounts of fat deposits.

The researchers, led by Professor Margarete Heck, said their findings could ultimately help scientists better understand obesity-related complications, which can include diabetes, blood clotting and heart disease.

The presence of this protein in lipid droplets may suggest that it has a role in obesity, Heck said. What we would like to understand is whether its presence is related to obesity, and if so, whether the protein's activity aggravates obesity and its consequences. Understanding its role will help us to better understand how the body stores fat.

Invadolysin was first identified by the scientists in fruit flies. The latest study looked at the protein in human cells, pinpointing its presence in the part of cells used to store fat. The researchers also found that when invadolysin was absent in fruit fly larvae, fat storage was impaired.

The research appears in the Journal of Cell Science.