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Journal: Cell metabolism


Sequencing of candidate genes for obesity in Labrador retriever dogs identified a 14 bp deletion in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) with an allele frequency of 12%. The deletion disrupts the β-MSH and β-endorphin coding sequences and is associated with body weight (per allele effect of 0.33 SD), adiposity, and greater food motivation. Among other dog breeds, the deletion was only found in the closely related flat-coat retriever (FCR), where it is similarly associated with body weight and food motivation. The mutation is significantly more common in Labrador retrievers selected to become assistance dogs than pets. In conclusion, the deletion in POMC is a significant modifier of weight and appetite in Labrador retrievers and FCRs and may influence other behavioral traits.

Concepts: Genetics, Labrador Retriever, Dog, Dog breed, Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labradoodle, Guide dog


Obesity is a heterogeneous phenotype that is crudely measured by body mass index (BMI). There is a need for a more precise yet portable method of phenotyping and categorizing risk in large numbers of people with obesity to advance clinical care and drug development. Here, we used non-targeted metabolomics and whole-genome sequencing to identify metabolic and genetic signatures of obesity. We find that obesity results in profound perturbation of the metabolome; nearly a third of the assayed metabolites associated with changes in BMI. A metabolome signature identifies the healthy obese and lean individuals with abnormal metabolomes-these groups differ in health outcomes and underlying genetic risk. Specifically, an abnormal metabolome associated with a 2- to 5-fold increase in cardiovascular events when comparing individuals who were matched for BMI but had opposing metabolome signatures. Because metabolome profiling identifies clinically meaningful heterogeneity in obesity, this approach could help select patients for clinical trials.


We investigated whether ultra-processed foods affect energy intake in 20 weight-stable adults, aged (mean ± SE) 31.2 ± 1.6 years and BMI = 27 ± 1.5 kg/m2. Subjects were admitted to the NIH Clinical Center and randomized to receive either ultra-processed or unprocessed diets for 2 weeks immediately followed by the alternate diet for 2 weeks. Meals were designed to be matched for presented calories, energy density, macronutrients, sugar, sodium, and fiber. Subjects were instructed to consume as much or as little as desired. Energy intake was greater during the ultra-processed diet (508 ± 106 kcal/day; p = 0.0001), with increased consumption of carbohydrate (280 ± 54 kcal/day; p < 0.0001) and fat (230 ± 53 kcal/day; p = 0.0004), but not protein (-2 ± 12 kcal/day; p = 0.85). Weight changes were highly correlated with energy intake (r = 0.8, p < 0.0001), with participants gaining 0.9 ± 0.3 kg (p = 0.009) during the ultra-processed diet and losing 0.9 ± 0.3 kg (p = 0.007) during the unprocessed diet. Limiting consumption of ultra-processed foods may be an effective strategy for obesity prevention and treatment.


The molecular transducers of benefits from different exercise modalities remain incompletely defined. Here we report that 12 weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval (HIIT), resistance (RT), and combined exercise training enhanced insulin sensitivity and lean mass, but only HIIT and combined training improved aerobic capacity and skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration. HIIT revealed a more robust increase in gene transcripts than other exercise modalities, particularly in older adults, although little overlap with corresponding individual protein abundance was noted. HIIT reversed many age-related differences in the proteome, particularly of mitochondrial proteins in concert with increased mitochondrial protein synthesis. Both RT and HIIT enhanced proteins involved in translational machinery irrespective of age. Only small changes of methylation of DNA promoter regions were observed. We provide evidence for predominant exercise regulation at the translational level, enhancing translational capacity and proteome abundance to explain phenotypic gains in muscle mitochondrial function and hypertrophy in all ages.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Oxygen, Gene, Metabolism, Mitochondrion, Cellular respiration, Exercise physiology


Prolonged fasting (PF) promotes stress resistance, but its effects on longevity are poorly understood. We show that alternating PF and nutrient-rich medium extended yeast lifespan independently of established pro-longevity genes. In mice, 4 days of a diet that mimics fasting (FMD), developed to minimize the burden of PF, decreased the size of multiple organs/systems, an effect followed upon re-feeding by an elevated number of progenitor and stem cells and regeneration. Bi-monthly FMD cycles started at middle age extended longevity, lowered visceral fat, reduced cancer incidence and skin lesions, rejuvenated the immune system, and retarded bone mineral density loss. In old mice, FMD cycles promoted hippocampal neurogenesis, lowered IGF-1 levels and PKA activity, elevated NeuroD1, and improved cognitive performance. In a pilot clinical trial, three FMD cycles decreased risk factors/biomarkers for aging, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer without major adverse effects, providing support for the use of FMDs to promote healthspan.

Concepts: HIV, Immune system, Cancer, Bone marrow, Chemotherapy, Immunology, Immunity, Neurogenesis


Intermittent fasting (IF) improves cardiometabolic health; however, it is unknown whether these effects are due solely to weight loss. We conducted the first supervised controlled feeding trial to test whether IF has benefits independent of weight loss by feeding participants enough food to maintain their weight. Our proof-of-concept study also constitutes the first trial of early time-restricted feeding (eTRF), a form of IF that involves eating early in the day to be in alignment with circadian rhythms in metabolism. Men with prediabetes were randomized to eTRF (6-hr feeding period, with dinner before 3 p.m.) or a control schedule (12-hr feeding period) for 5 weeks and later crossed over to the other schedule. eTRF improved insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and appetite. We demonstrate for the first time in humans that eTRF improves some aspects of cardiometabolic health and that IF’s effects are not solely due to weight loss.


Mice and humans with growth hormone receptor/IGF-1 deficiencies display major reductions in age-related diseases. Because protein restriction reduces GHR-IGF-1 activity, we examined links between protein intake and mortality. Respondents aged 50-65 reporting high protein intake had a 75% increase in overall mortality and a 4-fold increase in cancer death risk during the following 18 years. These associations were either abolished or attenuated if the proteins were plant derived. Conversely, high protein intake was associated with reduced cancer and overall mortality in respondents over 65, but a 5-fold increase in diabetes mortality across all ages. Mouse studies confirmed the effect of high protein intake and GHR-IGF-1 signaling on the incidence and progression of breast and melanoma tumors, but also the detrimental effects of a low protein diet in the very old. These results suggest that low protein intake during middle age followed by moderate to high protein consumption in old adults may optimize healthspan and longevity.

Concepts: Protein, Metabolism, Nutrition, Death, Hormone, Middle Ages, Growth hormone, Diet


Bariatric surgery is currently the most effective procedure for the treatment of obesity. Given the role of the gut microbiota in regulating host metabolism and adiposity, we investigated the long-term effects of bariatric surgery on the microbiome of patients randomized to Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or vertical banded gastroplasty and matched for weight and fat mass loss. The two surgical procedures induced similar and durable changes on the gut microbiome that were not dependent on body mass index and resulted in altered levels of fecal and circulating metabolites compared with obese controls. By colonizing germ-free mice with stools from the patients, we demonstrated that the surgically altered microbiota promoted reduced fat deposition in recipient mice. These mice also had a lower respiratory quotient, indicating decreased utilization of carbohydrates as fuel. Our results suggest that the gut microbiota may play a direct role in the reduction of adiposity observed after bariatric surgery.

Concepts: Gut flora, Nutrition, Obesity, Surgery, Weight loss, Bariatric surgery, Gastric bypass surgery, Bariatrics


Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting are known to prolong life- and healthspan in model organisms, while their effects on humans are less well studied. In a randomized controlled trial study ( identifier: NCT02673515), we show that 4 weeks of strict alternate day fasting (ADF) improved markers of general health in healthy, middle-aged humans while causing a 37% calorie reduction on average. No adverse effects occurred even after >6 months. ADF improved cardiovascular markers, reduced fat mass (particularly the trunk fat), improving the fat-to-lean ratio, and increased β-hydroxybutyrate, even on non-fasting days. On fasting days, the pro-aging amino-acid methionine, among others, was periodically depleted, while polyunsaturated fatty acids were elevated. We found reduced levels sICAM-1 (an age-associated inflammatory marker), low-density lipoprotein, and the metabolic regulator triiodothyronine after long-term ADF. These results shed light on the physiological impact of ADF and supports its safety. ADF could eventually become a clinically relevant intervention.


Cellular senescence entails a stable cell-cycle arrest and a pro-inflammatory secretory phenotype, which contributes to aging and age-related diseases. Obesity is associated with increased senescent cell burden and neuropsychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression. To investigate the role of senescence in obesity-related neuropsychiatric dysfunction, we used the INK-ATTAC mouse model, from which p16Ink4a-expressing senescent cells can be eliminated, and senolytic drugs dasatinib and quercetin. We found that obesity results in the accumulation of senescent glial cells in proximity to the lateral ventricle, a region in which adult neurogenesis occurs. Furthermore, senescent glial cells exhibit excessive fat deposits, a phenotype we termed “accumulation of lipids in senescence.” Clearing senescent cells from high fat-fed or leptin receptor-deficient obese mice restored neurogenesis and alleviated anxiety-related behavior. Our study provides proof-of-concept evidence that senescent cells are major contributors to obesity-induced anxiety and that senolytics are a potential new therapeutic avenue for treating neuropsychiatric disorders.