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.
Rexford S. Ahima
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.
Shwetha Ramachandrappa, I. Sadaf Farooqi
Cloned in 1994, the ob gene encodes the protein hormone leptin, which is produced and secreted by white adipose tissue. Since its discovery, leptin has been found to have profound effects on behavior, metabolic rate, endocrine axes, and glucose fluxes. Leptin deficiency in mice and humans causes morbid obesity, diabetes, and various neuroendocrine anomalies, and replacement leads to decreased food intake, normalized glucose homeostasis, and increased energy expenditure. Here, we provide an update on the most current understanding of leptin-sensitive neural pathways in terms of both anatomical organization and physiological roles.
Laurent Gautron, Joel K. Elmquist
To fulfill its role as the major energy-storing tissue, adipose has several unique properties that cannot be seen in any other organ, including an almost unlimited capacity to expand in a non-transformed state. As such, the tissue requires potent mechanisms to remodel, acutely and chronically. Adipocytes can rapidly reach the diffusional limit of oxygen during growth; hypoxia is therefore an early determinant that limits healthy expansion. Proper expansion requires a highly coordinated response among many different cell types, including endothelial precursor cells, immune cells, and preadipocytes. There are therefore remarkable similarities between adipose expansion and growth of solid tumors, a phenomenon that presents both an opportunity and a challenge, since pharmacological interventions supporting healthy adipose tissue adaptation can also facilitate tumor growth.
Kai Sun, Christine M. Kusminski, Philipp E. Scherer
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.
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
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.
Carey N. Lumeng, Alan R. Saltiel
Insulin secretion is a highly dynamic process regulated by various factors including nutrients, hormones, and neuronal inputs. The dynamics of insulin secretion can be studied at different levels: the single β cell, pancreatic islet, whole pancreas, and the intact organism. Studies have begun to analyze cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying dynamics of insulin secretion. This review focuses on our current understanding of the dynamics of insulin secretion in vitro and in vivo and discusses their clinical relevance.
Susumu Seino, Tadao Shibasaki, Kohtaro Minami
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.
Herbert Tilg, Arthur Kaser
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.
Wenyu Huang, Kathryn Moynihan Ramsey, Biliana Marcheva, Joseph Bass