‘Master switch’ gene for obesity and diabetes discovered

May 16, 2011

A gene linked to type 2 diabetes and cholesterol levels is in fact a “master regulator” gene that controls the behavior of other genes found within fat in the body, researchers at King’s College London and the University of Oxford have found.

The researchers examined over 20,000 genes in subcutaneous fat biopsies from 800 UK female twin volunteers.

They found an association between the KLF14 gene (inherited from the mother) and the expression levels of multiple distant genes found in fat tissue. This means that it acts as a master switch to control these genes, the researchers said. This was then confirmed in a further independent sample of 600 subcutaneous fat biopsies from Icelandic subjects.

Other genes controlled by KLF14 are in fact linked to a range of metabolic traits, including body-mass index (obesity), cholesterol, insulin and glucose levels, highlighting the interconnectedness of metabolic traits, the researchers said.

Ref: Kerrin S Small, Asa K Hedman, Elin Grundberg, Alexandra C Nica, Gudmar Thorleifsson, Augustine Kong, Unnur Thorsteindottir, So-Youn Shin, Hannah B Richards, Nicole Soranzo, Kourosh R Ahmadi, Cecilia M Lindgren, Kari Stefansson, Emmanouil T Dermitzakis, Panos Deloukas, Timothy D Spector, Mark I McCarthy, Identification of an imprinted master trans regulator at the KLF14 locus related to multiple metabolic phenotypes, Nature Genetics, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ng.833