'Jumping gene' diminishes the effect of a new type 2 diabetes risk gene

Jul 03, 2009

Research led by the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) has identified a new gene associated with diabetes, together with a mechanism that makes obese mice less susceptible to diabetes.

A genomic fragment that occurs naturally in some mouse strains diminishes the activity of the risk gene Zfp69. The researchers also found that the corresponding human gene (ZNF642) is especially active in overweight individuals with diabetes. The results of the study, which also involved scientists from the University of Leipzig and the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, are published July 3 in the open-access journal .

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 1.6 billion people are overweight worldwide. The number of people with type 2 diabetes has increased accordingly to 230 million. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is approximately 50% hereditary, but is also dependent on nutrition and lifestyle factors.

In the present study, the researchers compared the genomes of different mouse strains. Some mouse strains were obese but had no strikingly elevated blood glucose levels and were less susceptible to diabetes. Other strains developed a severe malfunction of fat and as they continued to gain weight, causing these mice to rapidly develop type 2 diabetes.

According to the study, this difference is due to a small fragment of genetic information: a so-called "jumping gene" or "transposon" of viral origin, localized in a non-coding segment of the gene Zfp69, whose effect it diminishes. Without this genetic fragment, the risk gene is fully active and, in combination with obesity, leads to high blood sugar levels and malfunction of fat metabolism. The gene is also active in the fat tissues of overweight people suffering from diabetes - more so than in healthy individuals.

"Our data suggest that the protein product of the risk gene in obese individuals enhances the storage of fat in fat cells. As a result, excessive fat accumulates in the liver and this in turn contributes to the development of diabetes," explains Stephan Scherneck, first author of the study.

"We have therefore discovered a new diabetes gene of similar importance in mice and humans," says Hans-Georg Joost, head of the study and scientific director of DIfE, "as well as a mechanism that has not been described before in connection with the heredity of diabetes and obesity."

These data show the importance of studying in detail not only genes themselves but also transposons in their vicinity.

Joost continued, "This transposon is quite active and almost completely "turns off" the Zfp69 gene. We have found indications that it is also active in other mouse . Since the human genome is full of such fragments, it is quite possible that they play a greater role than previously assumed."

More information: Scherneck S, Nestler M, Vogel H, Blüher M, Block M-D, et al. (2009) Positional Cloning of Zinc Finger Domain Transcription Factor Zfp69, a Candidate Gene for Obesity-Associated Contributed by Mouse Locus Nidd/SJL. PLoS Genet 5(7): e1000541. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000541, http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pgen.1000541

Source: Public Library of Science (news : web)

Explore further: First genetic link discovered to difficult-to-diagnose breast cancer sub-type

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Half of Americans have gene that affects how body burns sugar

Jan 26, 2007

A recent study by a Saint Louis University researcher confirms findings that about half of the U.S. population has a version of a gene that causes them to metabolize food differently, putting them at greater risk of developing ...

Impaired fat-burning gene worsens diabetes

Feb 07, 2008

Researchers at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have in collaboration with researchers from Finland, China, Japan and the US discovered new cellular mechanisms that lead to in insulin resistance in people ...

New blood test might offer early warning of deep belly fat

Jul 10, 2007

Measuring levels of a chemical found in blood offers the best indicator yet of the amount of fat surrounding abdominal organs, according to a new study of lean and obese individuals reported in the July issue of Cell Metabolism, a publ ...

Researchers Find Food-free Route to Obesity

Oct 19, 2006

Can people get fat -- and risk debilitating diabetes -- without overeating? The answer may be yes, according to Timothy Kieffer, a University of British Columbia researcher, who has found that imbalance in the action of a ...

Recommended for you

Refining the language for chromosomes

Apr 17, 2014

When talking about genetic abnormalities at the DNA level that occur when chromosomes swap, delete or add parts, there is an evolving communication gap both in the science and medical worlds, leading to inconsistencies in ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

Apr 16, 2014

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...