16. March 2022

Stress Factor Regulates Obesity Stress Factor Regulates Obesity

Researchers find new link to cellular recycling program

The Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry and the University Hospital in Bonn have for the first time been able to link a stress factor in the brain directly to the cell's own recycling program and obesity. This could enable a completely new approach to treating stress-induced metabolic diseases.

Stress factor regulates obesity
Stress factor regulates obesity © Colourbox
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Researchers have known for some time that the protein FKBP51 is associated with depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. It is involved in the regulation of the stress system - if this is disturbed, mental illnesses can develop. Now, researchers at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Psychiatry and the University Hospital Bonn (UKB) have discovered a new surprising role for this protein: it acts as a molecular link between the stress regulatory system and metabolic processes in the body. A central mechanism in this context is autophagy, the cellular waste removal.

"Autophagy is the cell's recycling program to get rid of old or damaged proteins. It can thereby counteract aging processes and - as we have now been able to show - reduce obesity," explains Nils Gassen, head of the Neurohomeostasis Research Group at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at UKB, one of the project leaders. Mathias Schmidt, project leader from the MPI of Psychiatry, adds, "That the stress factor FKBP51 in the brain is a master regulator of autophagy and thus obesity opens up a range of new intervention options, from pharmacological manipulation of the FKBP51 protein to autophagy-inducing fasting cures or sports programs."

Stress resilience for everyone
The possibilities opened up by the new findings are very versatile. Especially in times of a worldwide pandemic, it becomes clear how strongly uncontrollable stress affects our psyche and our body. At the same time, processes such as autophagy can be positively influenced by an active lifestyle and a healthy diet. Gassen and Schmidt are therefore planning further projects that will provide concrete data on how each individual can increase their autophagy and thus their individual stress resilience.

Original publication
Title: Mediobasal hypothalamic FKBP51 acts as a molecular switch linking autophagy to whole-body metabolism.

Authors: Alexander S. Hausl*, Thomas Bajaj*, Lea M. Brix, Max L. Pohlmann, Kathrin Hafner, Meri De Angelis, Joachim Nagler, Frederik Dethloff, Georgia Balsevich, Karl-Werner Schramm, Patrick Giavalisco, Alon Chen, Mathias V. Schmidt+ and Nils C. Gassen+ (* shared first author position; + shared last author position).

Journal: Science Advances: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abi4797

More information: https://www.psych.mpg.de/2835024/stress-fettleibigkeit-autophagie

Press contact
Mathias Schmidt
Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry
Phone: 089-30622-519
E-mail: mschmidt@psych.mpg.de

Anke Schlee
Public Relations Officer
Phone: 089-30622-263
E-mail: presse@psych.mpg.de

Dr. Nils Gassen
Head of the Neurohomeostasis Research Group at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Bonn University Hospital
Tel: 0228 287-15793
E-mail: Nils.Gassen@ukbonn.de

Viola Röser
Deputy Press Officer, University Hospital Bonn
Tel: 0228 287-10469
E-mail: Viola.Roeser@ukbonn.de

To the university hospital Bonn: In the UKB per year over 400.000 patients*innen are cared for, it 8.300 Mitarbeiter*innen are employed and the balance sum amounts to 1.3 billion euro. In addition to the more than 3,300 medical and dental students, around 600 young people are trained in other healthcare professions each year. The UKB is ranked first among university hospitals (UK) in NRW in the science ranking, has the fourth highest case mix index (case severity) in Germany and in 2020 was the only one of the 35 German university hospitals to have an increase in performance and the only positive annual balance sheet of all university hospitals in NRW.

Source: UKB Newsroom

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