Research highlight

Linking food intake and addiction

Nature Neuroscience

July 1, 2013

An enzyme, previously linked to type II diabetes and obesity, also regulates dopaminergic signaling in the brain and modulates cocaine response in mice.The study, published online this week in Nature Neuroscience, sheds light on a reward signaling pathway in the brain that is shared in both food intake and obesity regulation and addiction-related behavior and brain function.

Mutations in the Fto gene, which encodes an RNA and DNA demethylating protein, are one of the strongest genetic predisposition factors for obesity in humans.Alcohol consumption and dependence have also been linked to Fto genetic variations.Since food and alcohol intake can activate the same brain regions that process reward response to addictive substances such as cocaine, Jens Bruning and colleagues examined Fto function in the midbrain neurons of mice.Using genetically modified mice, they show that Fto regulates the activity of dopamine neurons and behavioral response to cocaine and cocaine-related drugs.

doi: 10.1038/nn.3449

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