Scientists at Brown University have discovered a a new enzyme in adipose tissue that helps regulate inflammation. The enzyme, known as sucrose non-fermenting related kinase (SNRK), could help in the battle against obesity.
The scientists found that SNRK increases metabolism in brown-fat, and suppresses inflammation in white-fat.
The study was published in Diabetes, and was led by Jie Li, a research associate in epidemiology at Brown University, and Bin Feng, a research associate at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital’s Hallett Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology.
The body has two different types of fat, also known as adipose tissue. White fat is an energy reserve for the body and a thermal insulator, that consists of a single large lipid droplet containing triglycerides. Brown fat contains a number of smaller lipid droplets with a higher percentage of mitochondria, giving it its darker colour.
White fat stores excess calories and is associated with obesity, whereas brown fat burns calories in order to produce heat. Brown fat has been a major area of research as a means of combating obesity.
“This study suggests that there may be dual benefits if we can find a way to enhance SNRK production in fat tissue,” said Simin Liu, Professor of Epidemiology at Brown University.
SNRK is a member of AMPK-related kinase family, but its role in inflammation and adipose energy homeostasis is unknown. The research team identified SNRK as an enzyme that seems to regulate the physiology of both fat types in mice, by decreasing inflammation in white fat tissue whilst promoting the ability of brown fat to burn calories.
Preliminary genetic evidence included in the study suggests that SNRK performs similar functions in humans, making it a possible new drug target in the war against obesity and its complications.
“Reducing inflammation in white fat may ease associated complications such as insulin resistance, while at the same time, increasing brown fat metabolism may aid in weight loss. Those possibilities will need to be followed up in further studies in humans,” Simin Liu, Professor of Epidemiology at Brown University.
SNRK was first discovered in fat tissue by the author of this study, Professor Haiyan Xu, whilst she was a researcher in the Molecular Epidemiology and Nutrition Lab of Brown’s Center for Global Cardiometabolic Health.