A new study led by researchers at Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California (USC) recently revealed that a particular hormone is capable of reducing the weight gain associated with a high-fat Western diet and also to normalize body metabolism, similar to the effects achieved with physical exercise. The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism and is entitled “The Mitochondrial-Derived Peptide MOTS-c Promotes Metabolic Homeostasis and Reduces Obesity and Insulin Resistance.”
Hormones correspond to signaling molecules produced by glands and are known to regulate physiological and behavioral activities. Researchers have identified a new hormone that is different from other hormones that are encoded by the DNA in the cell nucleus, as it is encoded in the DNA of mitochondria (the powerhouses of cells that produce energy in the body). This new hormone is called MOTS-c (mitochondrial open reading frame of the 12S rRNA-c) and it corresponds to a 16-amino-acid peptide encoded in the mitochondrial genome. MOTS-c was found to be capable of regulating insulin sensitivity and metabolic homeostasis. It primarily targets muscle tissue, being responsible for repairing insulin sensitivity and counteract insulin resistance associated to age and induced by diet, via a specific molecular pathway named folate-purine-AMPK pathway.
“This represents a major advance in the identification of new treatments for age-related diseases such as diabetes,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Pinchas Cohen in a news release.
The research team injected MOTS-c into mice that were fed a high-fat diet, which normally results in obese mice that are resistant to insulin, and found that MOTS-c prevented obesity and high-fat-diet induced and age-dependent insulin resistance (which usually precedes diabetes).
The findings suggest that genes encoded in the mitochondria genome may be actively involved in the regulation of the metabolic homeostasis. “This discovery sheds new light on mitochondria and positions them as active regulators of metabolism,” said the lead author of the study Dr. Changhan Lee.
So far, all the experiments on MOTS-c have been conducted in mice models, although the molecular mechanisms involved are also present in all mammals, including humans. According to Dr. Cohen, clinical trials with MOTS-c are planned to begin within the next three years.