Perilipin 5 Protein Found to Break Down Fat and Stimulate Production of New, More Efficient Mitochondria; May Explain Above-Normal Levels of Perilipin 5 in Endurance Athletes, While Offering New Clues to Treating Diabetes

Researchers at the UT (University of Texas) Southwestern Medical Center have found that a protein often located on the surface of fat droplets within cells – and especially abundant in the muscles of endurance athletes – can kick-start the more efficient and healthful breakdown of fat. The findings could have significant implications for development of new ways to treat obesity and type 2 diabetes, said Dr. Perry Bickel, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study published online on September 24, 2016 in Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “Nuclear Perilipin 5 Integrates Lipid Droplet Lipolysis with PGC-1α/SIRT1-Dependent Transcriptional Regulation of Mitochondrial Function.” More than 29 million Americans have diabetes, and it is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. Almost 26 percent of Americans age 65 and older have diabetes. The study reports a new role for the protein, Perilipin 5, in the cell nucleus as a regulator of fat metabolism. The finding that it was in the nucleus “was a complete surprise to us,” said Dr. Bickel, who is also Chief of the Division of Endocrinology and holds the Daniel W. Foster, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern. In obese people and rodents, excess fat can accumulate in tissues not specialized for fat storage, such as skeletal muscle, the heart, and liver. This buildup can lead to dysfunction of those tissues, Dr. Bickel said. Trying to break down large amounts of fat can overload the body’s metabolic system, swamping the tiny cellular mitochondria whose jobs are to turn fat into fuel for work or heat, he explained.
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