Obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure (hypertension) are all related, but understanding the molecular pathways that underlie cause and effect is complicated.
A new University of Iowa study identifies a protein within certain brain cells as a communications hub for controlling blood pressure, and suggests that abnormal activation of this protein may be a mechanism that links cardiovascular disease and obesity to elevated blood pressure.
"Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, and hypertension is a major cardiovascular risk factor," says Kamal Rahmouni, Ph.D., UI associate professor of pharmacology and internal medicine, and senior study author. "Our study identifies the protein called mTORC1 in the hypothalamus as a key player in the control of blood pressure. Targeting mTORC1 pathways may, therefore, be a promising strategy for the management of cardiovascular risk factors."
The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain that is responsible for maintaining normal function for numerous bodily processes, including blood pressure, body temperature, and glucose levels. Signaling of mTORC1 protein in the hypothalamus has previously been shown to affect food intake and body weight.
The new study, which was published April 2 in the journal Cell Metabolism, shows that the mTORC1 protein is activated by small molecules and hormones that are associated with obesity and cardiovascular disease, and this activation leads to dramatic increases in blood pressure.
Leucine is an amino acid that we get from food, which is known to activate mTORC1. The UI researchers showed that activating mTORC1 in rat brains with leucine increased activity in the nerves that connect the brain to the kidney, an important organ in blood pressure control. The increased nerve activity was accompanied by a rise in blood pressure. Conversely, blocking this mTORC1 activation significantly blunted leucine's blood
|Contact: Jennifer Brown|
University of Iowa Health Care