A new paper just came out in Cell Metabolism that is really cool for a couple reasons.
Lee et al. (2015) found that a hormone produced by mitochondria, parts of our cells that are important in metabolism and have their own DNA. They called the hormone MOTS-c.
Hormones, remember from earlier posts, are just signaling molecules that circulate in our cells and bodies and have important biological effects.
This discovery is especially cool for a couple reasons.
The first is that although we know that mitochondria are really important in metabolism, we don’t really know much about signaling molecules that are actually produced by our mitochondria.
The second is that the hormone appears to be really conserved among all mammals. This is often seen for hormones whose purpose is so specific, important, and widespread that its difficult for the hormone to even evolve. Insulin is another example of a hormone that is very conserved among mammals.
A final reason why this discovery is so cool is that MOTS-c seems to have really important effects on metabolism. It’s action activates AMPK. AMPK is another really important signaling molecule that we understand much more about. For now, its just important to know that AMPK regulates fat metabolism, and it looks like treatment with MOTS-c actually prevents obesity and insulin resistance in mice.
Maybe this represents a future treatment for obesity and diabetes? It’s actually quite strange to think that someday we might understand endocrinology well enough to regulate weight and even to some extent processes like aging by simply hormone injections without the current negative consequences that generally accompany these approaches.
That day is not yet here, so I’m gonna go hit the gym.
Lee, C., Zeng, J., Brew, B.G., Sallam, T., Martin-Montalvo, A., Wan, J., Kim, S., Mehta, H., Hevener, A.L., de Cabo, R., Cohen, P. (2015) The mitochondrial-derived peptide MOTS-c promotes metabolic homeostasis and reduces obesity and insulin resistance. Cell Metabolism 21, 443-454.