In fruit flies, a certain protein in the brain controls the feeling of satiety. If the substance is missing, the flies always feel full, stop eating and soon die. A deficiency in this regard could have a similar effect on humans.
Innsbruck researchers working with molecular biologist Alexandra Lusser have for the first time established the importance of the chromatin protein CHD1 in the brain in experiments on fruit flies. If it is missing, the activity of genes that control hunger and satiety is no longer properly regulated. A CHD1 deficiency could have a similar effect on humans, reported the Medical University of Innsbruck in a broadcast on Tuesday.
According to the researchers, CHD1 occurs in all organisms – from yeast to humans – and fulfills “fundamental tasks”. In the brain, it ensures that the chromatin packaging of the DNA remains stable during the transcription process.
Strong metabolic disorders are the result
Specifically, this means: Fruit flies – so-called Drosophilia – always feel full when the protein CHD1 is missing in their brain. They stop eating and their metabolism shows severe disturbances. In addition, critical markers of inflammation increase and they soon die. Their lifespan of an average of 80 days is shortened by a third, the university cited current research results that were recently published in the specialist journal “Cell Reports”.
Not one to one transferable to humans
Lusser described it as “conceivable” that a CHD1 deficiency could have similar effects in humans, but raised concerns: “Since there are seven CHD1 subtypes in humans, the roles and interaction of which are difficult to narrow down, the process is much more complex” .
In the meantime, fruit flies, which have been used as model organisms for genetics for more than a hundred years, are suitable for basic research. Because 75 percent of the genes of Drosophila are also present in humans. That is why there are fly models for issues such as cancer research, developmental biology and neurosciences. Drosophilia is “easy to manipulate genetically and there are innumerable possibilities to investigate it in terms of molecular biology,” the university said in its broadcast.
Further research on aging
In a previous study, Lusser had demonstrated the decisive influence of the CHD1 protein on the fertility of Drosophilia. In the course of further research, the question of whether the CHD1 expression decreases in the normal aging process, the chromatin structure is worse and the healthy aging is influenced.