RELMalpha, a protein that may protect women from obesity

This is a protein that is activated after infection and protects the rest of the tissues.Getty Images

  • Females have more proteins of this type than males.

  • This is a protein that is activated after infection and protects the rest of the tissues, causing inflammation.

  • A University of California Riverside study finds that gender (male or female) affects types of metabolic disease.

obesity, associated with poor mental health and reduced quality of life. are increasing all over the world. A risk factor for a number of diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and COVID-19, obesity is a major and growing public health problem.

Using a mouse model of obesity induced by a high-fat diet, a group of scientists from the University of California at Riverside (USA) found that, compared with males, female mice protected from obesity and inflammation because they release more of an immune protein called RELMalpha.

“Our study identifies immune cells and RELMalpha as the cause of these sex differences in the immune response to obesity,” explains Mira G. Nair, leader of the study, which was published in the scientific journal eLife.

RELM or resistin-like molecules constitute a family of mammalian secreted proteins that are highly expressed in infectious and inflammatory diseases. one of these proteinsRELMalpha is rapidly activated in mice after infection and serves to protect body tissues. Its sequence and function are similar to human resistin.

“RELMalpha regulates two types of immune cells: anti-inflammatory macrophages and eosinophils,” Nair explained. Macrophages and eosinophils are types of disease-fighting white blood cells, but they can harm the body in the absence of an infection. “In contrast, men expressed less RELM-alpha, had fewer eosinophils and inflammatory macrophages, which contributed to obesity,” he said.

A new path to anti-obesity drugs

When the researchers knocked out RELMalpha in female mice, they found that the mice were no longer protected from obesity, they had fewer eosinophils and inflammatory macrophages as male mice.

“However, we were able to reduce obesity in these female mice by treating them with eosinophils or RELMalpha, suggesting promising therapeutic targets. We are the first to map this pathway in females that protects against obesity,” Nair said.

The research team found that RELMalpha deficiency also has a significant effect on men, but to a lesser extent than women.

“In our experiments, female mice had higher levels of RELM-alpha than males, which likely explains why RELM-alpha deficiency affects females more than males. The significance of our study lies in the fact that Accounting for sex differences is essential for the treatment of metabolic diseases such as obesity.” the researchers pointed out.

According to Nair, this is a new study demonstrating a previously unrecognized role for RELM-alpha in modulating metabolic and inflammatory responses in gender-specific diet-induced obesity.

“Our results highlight the existence of a critical ‘RELM-alpha-eosinophil-macrophage axis’ that functions in women to protect against diet-induced obesity and inflammation. Thus, the development of these pathways may provide new treatments for obesity,” the scientist emphasized.

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