Can fat 'feel' fat? Size-sensing protein controls glucose uptake and storage in fat cells

phys.org | 5/25/2017 | Staff
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Researchers at the University of Iowa have discovered that a molecule which can sense the swelling of fat cells also controls a signaling pathway that allows fat cells to take up and store excess glucose. Mice missing this protein, known as SWELL1, gain less weight (fat) than normal mice on a high-fat diet, but also develop diabetes.

"Although we have created a mouse that is resistant to weight gain by removing the SWELL1 protein, the mouse is not healthy; it has insulin resistance and glucose intolerance," says Rajan Sah, MD, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and senior author of the study.

Diabetes - Health - Problems - Obesity - Disease

Type 2 diabetes is one of the more serious health problems associated with obesity. The disease makes cells less sensitive to insulin and causes blood sugar levels to become abnormally high. It is healthier for the body to store excess glucose as fat rather than have it circulating in the blood where it can damage blood vessels and nerves.

In healthy people, insulin released in response to high glucose levels acts on many different tissues to coordinate use or storage of the glucose. It triggers fat cells to take up excess glucose and store it as fat.

Sah - Study - Nature - Cell - Biology

Sah's study, which was published recently in Nature Cell Biology, found that removing SWELL1 from fat cells in mice disrupts this insulin signaling pathway and prevents fat cells from taking up glucose.

Sah and his team homed in on SWELL1 because of several pieces of converging evidence. Fat cells have a tremendous capacity to expand - up to 30 times their normal volume in the context of obesity. It's also long been known that changes in fat cell size alters fat cell signaling.

Experiments - Cell - Cells - Mice

Through exploratory experiments investigating cell swelling in fat cells from lean and obese mice as...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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