Researchers make a case for free fatty acids

October 22, 2013

The current global epidemic of obesity-linked diabetes and its associated consequences -cardiovascular, neurological and renal diseases - is a growing public health problem for which therapeutic options are limited.

In obesity, fatty acids, derived mostly from adipose tissue, alter lipid metabolism in other tissues such as liver and skeletal muscles. Both impaired fatty acid metabolism and glucose are hallmarks of diabetes.

In a recent study in the journal Biochemistry, a research group led by James A. Hamilton, PhD, professor of physiology, biophysics and radiology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), applied novel fluorescent methods to measure the rate by which fatty acids bind to and move across the fatty acid membrane to become metabolized.

"Our study shows that fatty acid entry into cells occurs by diffusion without catalysis by a previously described as a fatty acid transport protein. However, this protein promotes intracellular metabolism and storage," said Hamilton. "With this advance in basic science, new drugs can be designed that target the exact mechanism more precisely than currently available drugs."

Previous research has shown that glucose transport under the control of insulin is mediated by a called GLUT4. However, how fatty acids enter into cells has been an important unsolved problem, especially whether there are gatekeeper plasma membrane proteins that regulate fatty acid translocation across the membrane, thereby controlling the supply of fatty acids to the interior of the cell. Although several proteins postulated to be fatty acid transporters have now been shown to have other roles, the mechanistic roles of the protein CD36 have remained elusive and are widely debated.

After measuring the products of fatty acid metabolism over time, the researchers found that CD36 enhances into triglycerides (fat deposits), without increasing fatty acid translocation across the membrane in a cell line that does not normally synthesize triglycerides. Thus, CD36 increases fatty acid uptake by increasing intracellular metabolism, which promotes diffusion of into cells.

Explore further: Novel technology produces gasoline by metabolically-engineered microorganism

Related Stories

Recommended for you

How to look for a few good catalysts

July 30, 2015

Two key physical phenomena take place at the surfaces of materials: catalysis and wetting. A catalyst enhances the rate of chemical reactions; wetting refers to how liquids spread across a surface.

Findings illuminate animal evolution in protein function

July 27, 2015

Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond researchers recently teamed up to explore the inner workings of cells and shed light on the 400–600 million years of evolution between humans and early animals ...

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.