Review

Abstract

The discovery of the genetic basis for circadian rhythms has expanded our knowledge of the temporal organization of behavior and physiology. The observations that the circadian gene network is present in most living organisms from eubacteria to humans, that most cells and tissues express autonomous clocks, and that disruption of clock genes results in metabolic dysregulation have revealed interactions between metabolism and circadian rhythms at neural, molecular, and cellular levels. A major challenge remains in understanding the interplay between brain and peripheral clocks and in determining how these interactions promote energy homeostasis across the sleep-wake cycle. In this Review, we evaluate how investigation of molecular timing may create new opportunities to understand and develop therapies for obesity and diabetes.

Authors

Wenyu Huang, Kathryn Moynihan Ramsey, Biliana Marcheva, Joseph Bass

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Abstract

Obesity and its associated comorbidities represent one of the biggest public health challenges facing the world today. The heritability of body weight is high, and genetic variation plays a major role in determining the interindividual differences in susceptibility or resistance to the obesogenic environment. Here we discuss how genetic studies in humans have contributed to our understanding of the central pathways that govern energy homeostasis. We discuss how the arrival of technological advances such as next-generation sequencing will result in a major acceleration in the pace of gene discovery. The study of patients harboring these genetic variants has informed our understanding of the molecular and physiological pathways involved in energy homeostasis. We anticipate that future studies will provide the framework for the development of a more rational targeted approach to the prevention and treatment of genetically susceptible individuals.

Authors

Shwetha Ramachandrappa, I. Sadaf Farooqi

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Abstract

Lipid droplets (LDs) are intracellular organelles that store neutral lipids within cells. Over the last two decades there has been a dramatic growth in our understanding of LD biology and, in parallel, our understanding of the role of LDs in health and disease. In its simplest form, the LD regulates the storage and hydrolysis of neutral lipids, including triacylglycerol and/or cholesterol esters. It is becoming increasingly evident that alterations in the regulation of LD physiology and metabolism influence the risk of developing metabolic diseases such as diabetes. In this review we provide an update on the role of LD-associated proteins and LDs in metabolic disease.

Authors

Andrew S. Greenberg, Rosalind A. Coleman, Fredric B. Kraemer, James L. McManaman, Martin S. Obin, Vishwajeet Puri, Qing-Wu Yan, Hideaki Miyoshi, Douglas G. Mashek

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Abstract

The obesity epidemic has forced us to evaluate the role of inflammation in the health complications of obesity. This has led to a convergence of the fields of immunology and nutrient physiology and the understanding that they are inextricably linked. The reframing of obesity as an inflammatory condition has had a wide impact on our conceptualization of obesity-associated diseases. In this Review, we highlight the cellular and molecular mechanisms at play in the generation of obesity-induced inflammation. We also emphasize how defining the immune regulation in metabolic tissues has broadened the understanding of the diversity of inflammatory responses.

Authors

Carey N. Lumeng, Alan R. Saltiel

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Abstract

The prevalence of obesity and related disorders such as metabolic syndrome has vastly increased throughout the world. Recent insights have generated an entirely new perspective suggesting that our microbiota might be involved in the development of these disorders. Studies have demonstrated that obesity and metabolic syndrome may be associated with profound microbiotal changes, and the induction of a metabolic syndrome phenotype through fecal transplants corroborates the important role of the microbiota in this disease. Dietary composition and caloric intake appear to swiftly regulate intestinal microbial composition and function. As most findings in this field of research are based on mouse studies, the relevance to human biology requires further investigation.

Authors

Herbert Tilg, Arthur Kaser

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Abstract

The growing problem of obesity is associated with multiple morbidities, including increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, and cancer. Obesity promotes disability, decreases productivity, and shortens life span. Although much attention has been focused on diet and exercise, these strategies alone are not effective in preventing obesity and maintaining weight loss. Moreover, the development of pharmacological approaches for obesity treatment has been dogged by poor efficacy and serious side effects. The biology of obesity is very complex, and mechanisms linking obesity to various diseases are poorly understood. This issue of the JCI highlights important concepts in our understanding of the pathogenesis of obesity and its complications.

Authors

Rexford S. Ahima

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Abstract

Human cytomegalovirus (CMV), one of the eight herpesviruses that commonly infect humans, is best known for its propensity to cause disease in immunocompromised patients, especially transplant recipients, patients with advanced AIDS, and congenitally infected newborns. Advances in molecular virology coupled with improvements in diagnostic methods and treatment options have vastly improved our understanding of and ability to manage CMV, but many uncertainties remain, including the mechanisms of persistence and pathogenesis and its hypothesized roles in a variety of human illnesses. Here we review recent advances that are reshaping our view and approach to this fascinating virus.

Authors

Michael Boeckh, Adam P. Geballe

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Abstract

Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a PI3K-related kinase that regulates cell growth, proliferation, and survival via mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTORC2. The mTOR pathway is often aberrantly activated in cancers. While hypoxia, nutrient deprivation, and DNA damage restrain mTORC1 activity, multiple genetic events constitutively activate mTOR in cancers. Here we provide a brief overview of the signaling pathways up- and downstream of mTORC1 and -2, and discuss the insights into therapeutic anticancer targets — both those that have been tried in the clinic with limited success and those currently under clinical development — that knowledge of these pathways gives us.

Authors

Seth A. Wander, Bryan T. Hennessy, Joyce M. Slingerland

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Abstract

Food allergies affect up to 6% of young children and 3%–4% of adults. They encompass a range of disorders that may be IgE and/or non-IgE mediated, including anaphylaxis, pollen food syndrome, food-protein–induced enterocolitis syndrome, food-induced proctocolitis, eosinophilic gastroenteropathies, and atopic dermatitis. Many complex host factors and properties of foods are involved in the development of food allergy. With recent advances in the understanding of how these factors interact, the development of several novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies is underway and showing promise.

Authors

Julie Wang, Hugh A. Sampson

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Abstract

Huntington disease is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by a toxic expansion in the CAG repeat region of the huntingtin gene. Oligonucleotide approaches based on RNAi and antisense oligonucleotides provide promising new therapeutic strategies for direct intervention through reduced production of the causative mutant protein. Allele-specific and simultaneous mutant and wild-type allele–lowering strategies are being pursued with local delivery to the brain, each with relative merits. Delivery remains a key challenge for translational success, especially with chronic therapy. The potential of disease-modifying oligonucleotide approaches for Huntington disease will be revealed as they progress into clinical trials.

Authors

Dinah W.Y. Sah, Neil Aronin

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