"Our paper highlights the possibility that differences in core temperature may play a role in obesity and may represent a therapeutic area in future drug design," added Osborn.
A Surprising Find
The laboratory of Tamas Bartfai, who is chair of the Department of Molecular and Integrative Neurosciences, director of the Harold Dorris Neurological Research Institute, and a member of The Skaggs Institute of Chemical Biology at Scripps Research, has been investigating the biology of temperature regulation for almost a decade. The idea for the new study came about from some recent experiments in his lab exploring the properties of cells called "warm-sensitive neurons." These cells exist only in the preoptic area of the brain, which is known to regulate core body temperature.
In work coordinated by Osborn to characterize these neurons and their transcriptome (all of the messenger RNA molecules in a cell, which reflect the genes being expressed), the team noticed something unexpecteda messenger RNA for an insulin receptor.
"We were surprised to find the insulin receptor," said Tabarean. "The insulin receptor is very well documented in the pancreas and in other peripheral tissues. But in the brain, it was not clear and we definitely did not know about its existence in warm-sensitive neurons."
Hypothesizing that insulin was acting in the regulation of core body temperature because of its presence in warm-sensitive neurons, the scientists set out to investigate. To do so, they used a rare combination of techniques including molecular biology at the single-cell level, electrophysiology, imaging techniques, and in vivo metabolic studies.
First, Tabarean led the single-cell work, examining the effect of insulin on individual wa
Scripps Research Institute