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Insulin action in the brain can lead to obesity
Date:6/6/2011

This release is available in German.

Fat-rich food makes you fat. Behind this simple equation lie complex signalling pathways, through which the neurotransmitters in the brain control the body's energy balance. Scientists at the Cologne-based Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research and the Cluster of Excellence in Cellular Stress Responses in Ageing-associated Diseases (CECAD) at the University of Cologne have clarified an important step in this complex control circuit. They have succeeded in showing how the hormone insulin acts in the part of the brain known as the ventromedial hypothalamus. The consumption of high-fat food causes more insulin to be released by the pancreas. This triggers a signalling cascade in special nerve cells in the brain, the SF-1 neurons, in which the enzyme P13-kinase plays an important role. Over the course of several intermediary steps, the insulin inhibits the transmission of nerve impulses in such a way that the feeling of satiety is suppressed and energy expenditure reduced. This promotes overweight and obesity.

The hypothalamus plays an important role in energy homeostasis: the regulation of the body's energy balance. Special neurons in this part of the brain, known as POMC cells, react to neurotransmitters and thus control eating behaviour and energy expenditure. The hormone insulin is an important messenger substance. Insulin causes the carbohydrate consumed in food to be transported to target cells (e.g. muscles) and is then available to these cells as an energy source. When high-fat food is consumed, more insulin is produced in the pancreas, and its concentration in the brain also increases. The interaction between the insulin and the target cells in the brain also plays a crucial role in the control of the body's energy balance. However, the precise molecular mechanisms that lie behind the control exercised b
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Contact: Professor Jens C. Brning
bruening@nf.mpg.de
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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