Is Gene Expression Linked to Obesity?

DNA strand
DNA strand
An analysis of genetic traits has revealed a new link between THNSL2 gene expression and obesity in a group of healthy men.

Increased expression of the THNSL2 gene can be linked to lower energy expenditure and is predictive of weight gain, according to research presented at ObesityWeek 2016.

Researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) used the Affymetrix Human Exon 1.0 ST array to analyze skeletal muscle biopsies collected from 219 healthy Pima Indians (150 men; age: 29±7 years; body fat: 32±8%). Participants’ 24-hour and resting energy expenditures and long-term weight change were measured over a median follow-up of 7 years.

Paolo Piaggi, PhD, of the NIDDK and lead study author, and colleagues found that increased THNSL2 expression in skeletal muscle tissue was associated with lower 24-hour and resting energy expenditures (β=-46 kcal/d per SD increase; P =10-3 and  β=-47 kcal/d; P =8×10-3) and higher weight gain (r =+0.19, P =10-2).

“This new study is the first to identify a specific genetic pathway in our muscle tissue that we may be able to harness to develop new treatments for obesity,” said Dr Piaggi in a press release.

“We know that there are ties between our genes and energy expenditure, and this study offers several potentially important extensions that work, in particular, by implicating a specific pathway for treatment,” added Anthony Comuzzie, PhD, of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and Obesity Society spokesperson.

Dr Piaggi and colleagues also noted that energy expenditure and body weight are heritable traits.

“The research brings us one step closer to better understanding the variation in weight gain among individuals,” Dr Comuzzie concluded.

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  1. Piaggi P. Genome-wide gene expression study in skeletal muscle to identify genes associated with energy expenditure and weight gain. Abstract poster presented at: ObesityWeek 2016; October 31-November 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA.
  2. Can we harness our genes to burn more calories? [press release]. Silver Spring, MD: The Obesity Society; November 1, 2016. Accessed November 1, 2016.