A gene that plays a role in protecting telomeres might also be linked with obesity. Researchers have found that mice lacking this gene, RAP1, gain more weight, even if they do not eat more than their control counterparts.

Investigators at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) present today in Cell Reports their analysis of RAP1. “We still don’t know what evolutionary significance to attach to it, but it is at the very least interesting that a telomere gene is related to obesity,” Maria Blasco, Ph.D., CNIO director, said in a statement.

Beyond gaining more weight, Dr. Blasco and her colleagues found that mice lacking RAP1 also “suffer from metabolic syndrome, accumulate abdominal fat, and present high glucose and cholesterol levels, amongst other symptoms,” she said.

The researchers also report having found that RAP1 binds to Pparα and Pgc1α loci, modulating their transcription.

“This discovery adds an element to the obesity equation, and opens up a possible new link between metabolic dysfunction and aging, via a protein present in telomeres,” Dr. Blasco added.

The next step, she said, would be to further investigate the role RAP1 plays in the regulation of genes involved in metabolism.

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