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News Article

Switch in hypothalamus coordinates feeding and energy expenditure.

Levels of a phosphatase control signalling to fat cells in fasting and fed states.

Researchers at Monash University in Australia have discovered an enzyme switch that couples feeding to energy expenditure. The study in mice found a phosphatase enzyme in the brain that triggers repression or activation of ‘beige’ fat cells depending on whether the animal has just fed or is fasting. It is published in ‘Cell Metabolism’.

Beige fat cells are a fairly recent discovery, and previous work by the same group of researchers suggests they can convert to brown or white fat cells to either expend or store energy as needed. This study shows how that is linked to feeding.

The researchers report that a phosphatase called TCPTP coordinates the switching of the fat cells between states. Fasting increased TCPTP levels and repressed insulin signalling in AgRP/NPY neurons in the hypothalamus, sending a signal to inhibit the browning of fat cells and decrease energy expenditure. Feeding reduced the activity of TCPTP, and increased insulin signalling in the same neurons and sent messages to activate browning of fat cells and increase enrgy expenditure.

These findings open up some possibile targets for obesity treatments.

The researchers went one step further and discovered that in obesity the usual signal from feeding fails to decrease levels of TCPTP as effectively and that mice lacking the enzyme fail to gain weight on a high energy diet. They also showed that in obese mice, deleting the activity of TCPTP restored the browning of fat cells and improved energy expenditure promoting a loss of weight.

A Hypothalamic Phosphatase Switch Coordinates Energy Expenditure with Feeding. Garron T. Dodd, Zane B. Andrews, Stephanie E. Simonds, Natalie J. Michael, Michael DeVeer, Jens C. Brüning, David Spanswick, Michael A. Cowley, Tony Tiganis. Cell Metabolism 2017 DOI:


Article details

  • Author(s)
  • I.Hoskins
  • Date
  • 03 August 2017
  • Subject(s)
  • Nutrition physiology