Fat-regulating enzyme control protects against disease, say researchers

By Emma Cash

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers have discovered that deleting an enzyme crucial in fat regulation could increase the risk of cancer, inflammation and other diseases.

Phosphatidic acid phosphatase, an enzyme discovered in 1957, determines whether the body’s phosphatidic acid will be used to create fat, or create the lipids in cell membranes.

Scientists have previously agreed that controlling the enzyme is in the best interests in the fight against obesity, however the research team from Rutgers University have discovered that getting rid of the enzyme entirely can increase the risk of other diseases.

Control of enzyme, not deletetion

The enzyme has been researched recently due to its relation to obesity, lipodystrophy, inflammation, diabetes and other conditions, however no study has so far showed how it can be controlled.

“The goal of our lab is to understand how we can tweak and control this enzyme,” ​said George M. Carman, study author and Board of Governors professor in the Department of Food Science in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at the university.

“For years, we have been trying to find out how to fine-tune the enzyme’s activity so it’s not too active, and creating too much fat, but it’s active enough to keep the body healthy.”

Scientists at Rutgers University used baker’s yeast, as it contains phosphatidic acid phosphatase, as the model organism in their study.

Gil-Soo Han, study lead and the scientist who discovered the gene encoding the enzyme in 2006, deleted a gene in the yeast that eliminated the enzyme completely.

However the study found that this opened the doorway for more diseases.

When the enzyme was removed, it led to an accumulation of phosphatidic acid, with cells making more membrane lipids.

“We have found that maybe a more critical role for the enzyme is to make sure that cells are not making too much membrane lipid,”

“If you make too much membrane lipid, you make too much membrane and the cells are permitted to grow uncontrollably, a condition characteristic of cancer,” ​said Carman.

Carman added that the key is to keep the balance between making storage fat and membrane lipid. Having a balanced diet does this.

Now that scientists are more sure of the enzyme’s structure and function, the next step is to find a way to alter it and control it.

Source: Journal of Biological Chemistry

Published online, DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M117.801720

Study: “Yeast PAH1 –encoded phosphatidate phosphatase controls the expression of CHO1 –encoded phosphatidylserine synthase for membrance phospholipid synthesis”

Authors: Gil-Soo Han, George M. Carman

Related topics: Research, Weight management

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