British scientists have found that a gene called KLF14 acts as a “master switch” that controls other genes found in body fat-genes that are major factors in such conditions as type 2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol levels, and levels of glucose and insulin. The finding, by researchers at King’s College London and Oxford University, could lead to treatments for diabetes, obesity, and related metabolic disorders by targeting the gene.
Previously KLF14 was a known link to type 2 and high cholesterol. But, as the researchers found, the gene’s role as a master regulator of fat cell genes makes it a more significant factor in metabolic diseases than previously thought.
The British research team looked at more than 20,000 genes from fat samples taken from two separate groups of volunteers. The first group was 800 British female twins, and the second was 600 Icelanders. The scientists found that KLF14 directly affected the levels of other genes found in fat, revealing its role as the “master switch” that controls the actions of those genes.
Those genes, in turn, affect several metabolic conditions associated with type 2 diabetes, including body mass index, blood glucose and insulin levels, and being overweight. The next step is to look for ways to manipulate KLF14 so that its signals to other genes do not create metabolic disorders.
The study was published in the journal Nature Genetics.