Washington: Scientists, have identified a brain hormone that can trigger fat burning in the gut. Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in the US found a brain hormone that specifically and selectively stimulates fat metabolism, without any effect on food intake.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, in animal models could have implications for future pharmaceutical development.
"This was basic science that unlocked an interesting mystery," said senior author Supriya Srinivasan, an Indian origin researcher and a member of the TSRI.
The researchers experimented with roundworms called C. elegans, which are often used as model organisms in biology.
These worms have simpler metabolic systems than humans, but their brains produce many of the same signaling molecules, leading many researchers to believe that findings in C. elegans may be relevant for humans.
They deleted genes in C. elegans to see if they could interrupt the path between brain serotonin and fat burning. This process of elimination led them to a gene that codes for a neuropeptide hormone named FLP-7 (pronounced "flip 7").
They found that the mammalian version of FLP-7 (called Tachykinin) had been identified 80 years ago as a peptide that triggered muscle contractions when dribbled on pig intestines.
The next step in the new study was to determine how FLP-7 was directly linked to serotonin levels in the brain.
The study revealed that FLP-7 was, indeed, secreted from neurons in the brain in response to elevated serotonin levels. FLP-7 then travels through the circulatory system to start the fat burning process in the gut.
The newly discovered fat-burning pathway works like this - a neural circuit in the brain produces serotonin in response to sensory cues, such as food availability. This signals another set of neurons to begin producing FLP-7 and then activates a receptor in intestinal cells and the intestines begin turning fat into energy.