The discovery of a molecular switch that can be manipulated to boost the activity of enzymes responsible for burning fat may one day lead to new treatments for obesity and potentially a host of disorders ranging from cardiovascular disease to stroke and skin problems, researchers claim. Using a lipase enzyme model system devised in collaboration with colleagues at Novozymes, a multidisciplinary team at the University of Copenhagen has found that the lipase enzyme (Thermomyces lanuginosus lipase in this case) can adopt a slightly different functional state that effectively makes it work harder. In essence, by tripping the switch, the researchers were able to make the lipase burn far more fat.

The University of Copenhagen’s Dimitrios Stamou, Ph.D, and Nikos Hatzakis, Ph.D., hope that if this same activity-boosting switch is common to and can also be triggered in other enzymes, it may provide new therapeutic opportunities for a host of diseases. “Changing the fundamental shape of a tool is always difficult,” comments Dr. Hatzakis. “But working longer hours with the same tool is infinitely easier. What we’ve achieved is to make enzymes work longer hours.”

The researchers report their findings in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The paper is titled “Single Enzyme Studies Reveal the Existence of Discrete Functional States for Monomeric Enzymes and How They Are ‘Selected’ upon Allosteric Regulation.”

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