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Microphoto of cross-section of fat tissue from a mouse, showing perilipin protein as brown borders of cells. Link to photo information
Fat tissue from a mouse. The brown borders of the cells are perilipin protein. The protein controls the release—or not—of fat for energy. Click the image for more information about it.

Genetic Variants Shown to Hoard Body Fat

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
March 20, 2006

Two variations of a gene associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes have been linked to storing excess fat--and therefore influencing body weight--in Caucasian women.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded scientists looked at four variations of the gene that produces perilipin protein. This protein plays an extremely significant role in determining whether fat is stored within fat cells or released for use as energy. The more perilipin protein produced, the more fat is stored.

Physician Andrew Greenberg and nutrigenomics expert Jose Ordovas at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass., have been studying the perilipin gene variants 13041A/G, 14995A/T, 6209T/C and 11482G/A.

Ordovas determined which of these four variants was carried by 373 male and 361 female study participants. He then compared the holders of the different variants to measurements of their body fat percentage and waist circumference.

Women with variants 13041A/G and 14995A/T tended to have a higher percentage of body fat and greater waist circumference than women with the other two variants. The same pattern was not found in men, likely because of hormonal differences. According to Ordovas, the 13041A/G and 14995A/T inherited variations are a significant genetic marker of obesity in women. The study was published in Obesity Research.

The study is part of a special issue on ARS obesity research in the March 2006 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.