Vanderbilt researchers uncover new target for treating diabetes

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In a groundbreaking study, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have identified a new potential approach to mitigating the global impact of metabolic disorders such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the study focuses on a signaling pathway in adipose (fatty) tissue that can be manipulated to improve insulin action and prevent weight gain.

Led by senior authors Heidi Hamm, Ph.D., and Sheila Collins, Ph.D., both renowned for their research on G proteins and G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), the study centers on the role of G proteins, specifically the Gβγ subunit, in regulating metabolism.

G proteins act as intracellular “switches” that transmit signals from GPCRs, which are embedded in the cell membranes.

Gβγ-SNARE Interaction and Metabolism

Previous research by Hamm demonstrated that the Gβγ subunit of G proteins could inhibit a process called exocytosis by binding to SNAP25, a protein in the SNARE complex, which is a crucial regulator of vesicle fusion.

In the current study, the team hypothesized that this Gβγ-SNARE interaction could block the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, subsequently impairing insulin-triggered glucose uptake and contributing to metabolic disorders.

Experiment on Mice

The research involved an experiment on mice, led by Ryan Ceddia, Ph.D., and Zack Zurawski, Ph.D. The team compared the effects of a high-fat diet on mice with altered SNAP25 proteins and those with normal SNAP25 proteins.

Mice with the altered protein were found to be resistant to weight gain, had an increased release of norepinephrine, experienced less appetite, and showed better control over their blood glucose levels, indicative of increased insulin sensitivity.


These findings reveal that the interaction between Gβγ and SNAP25 could be a key regulator in metabolism.

It plays a role not just in the central nervous system but also in the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary functions like energy balance, insulin secretion, and thermoregulation.

Conclusion and Future Directions

The study concludes that drugs targeting the Gβγ-SNARE interaction could offer an alternative treatment for metabolic disorders, especially given their potential to improve both food intake and insulin action.

This research opens new avenues for combating the growing prevalence of obesity and diabetes and provides an interesting alternative to directly targeting GPCRs, which are already the focus of two-thirds of all current drugs.

By identifying this crucial interaction, the researchers have taken a significant step toward developing more effective treatments for metabolic disorders.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies about new ways to achieve type 2 diabetes remission, and one avocado a day keeps diabetes at bay.

For more information about diabetes, please see recent studies about 5 dangerous signs you have a diabetes-related eye disease, and results showing why pomegranate is super fruit for people with diabetes.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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