Obesity has become a serious worldwide public health problem. Although neural degeneration in specific brain regions has been suggested to contribute to obesity phenotype in humans, a causal relationship between these two conditions has not been demonstrated experimentally. We now show that E4B (also known as UFD2a), a mammalian ubiquitin chain elongation factor (E4), induces the formation of intracellular aggregates positive for ubiquitin and the adaptor protein p62 when overexpressed in cultured cells or the brain. Mice transgenic for E4B manifested neural degeneration in association with aggregate formation, and they exhibited functional impairment specifically in a subset of hypothalamic neurons that regulate food intake and energy expenditure, resulting in development of hyperphagic obesity and related metabolic abnormalities. The neural pathology of E4B transgenic mice was similar to that of human neurodegenerative diseases associated with the formation of intracellular ubiquitin-positive deposits, indicating the existence of a link between such diseases and obesity and related metabolic disorders. Our findings thus provide experimental evidence for a role of hypothalamic neurodegeneration in obesity, and the E4B transgenic mouse should prove to be a useful animal model for studies of the relationship between neurodegenerative diseases and obesity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology