Lab Canada

McGill researcher identifies new protein that may play a role in obesity

Montreal, QC July 24, 2003 A study carried out by researchers at the Research Institute at the McGill University Health Centre identifies a new receptor protein present on fat cells that may play a role in fat metabolism.

The findings, published recently in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, have implications for the many individuals suffering from obesity. The research was funded through the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“We have identified a receptor protein on fat cells that when stimulated may increase the amount of lipid stored in fat reservoirs,” says Dr Katherine Cianflone, researcher at the health centre. “This protein, C5L2, is made by fat tissue, is on the surface of fat cells and binds a specific hormone to increase fat production.”

Dr Cianflone, an associate professor at McGill University, along with colleagues from McGill University and the United Kingdom, characterized the binding activities of C5L2. They showed that the protein is a cell surface receptor that binds acylation stimulating protein (ASP), a protein known to affect fat production.

“People who are obese have high levels of ASP,” says Dr Cianflone. “One potential key to battling this condition is to disrupt the ASP-C5L2 complex. In the future, we may be able to slow down this fat-producing process by identifying molecules that will block C5L2 activity.”

“By providing funding for researchers like Dr Cianflone and her colleagues, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is helping us better understand one of many complex pathways involved in regulating body weight,” says Dr Diane Finegood, scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes which has identified obesity research as its strategic funding priority. “We need to know much more about human biology, as well as human behaviour, if we are to come to grips with the obesity epidemic and its many adverse consequences affecting the health of Canadians.”