European Association for the Study of Diabetes

European Association for the Study of Diabetes

October 01, 2013
2 min read

Genes associated with diabetes, obesity could be altered by exercise

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Genes associated with the development of diabetes and obesity could be altered by long-term exercise, according to data presented at EASD 2013.

“In summary, we have shown that regular exercise changes expression of our innate DNA through epigenetic mechanism. We have described for the first time what happens on an epigenetic level in fat cells when we undertake physical activity. Our results suggest new mechanisms for how different genes may predispose to obesity or type 2 diabetes and also a new mechanism for the beneficial effect of exercise on metabolic health,” Tina Rönn, PhD, of Lund University in Malmö, Sweden, said in a press conference.

Subcutaneous fat biopsies were collected before and after the 6-month supervised exercise intervention study, including 23 men from Malmö, Sweden. DNA and RNA extraction was also performed on the sedentary but otherwise healthy patients (mean age, 37.4 years; mean BMI, 27.8 kg/m2).

“Surprisingly, we could see that changes in DNA methylation patterns had taken place in almost one-third of all genes after the exercise intervention,” Rönn said. “In most cases, the genes had become more methylated. And additionally, one-third of the genes with altered adipose DNA methylation also showed a difference in the expression of that gene,” Rönn said.

These changes were seen in both cells associated with type 2 diabetes and fat storage. The average methylation was notably higher among regions 200 bp upstream of transcription start site, in 5’ untranslated regions and in the first exon, with significant increases after exercise (P<.01), according to abstract data.

Furthermore, 45 sites in 21 genes were differentially methylated in adipose tissue before exercise vs. after exercise. Of those, 10 sites mapped to KCNQ1 and five sites mapped to TCF7L2 — the gene most predominantly associated with type 2 diabetes, according to a press release. These changes could have clinical implications for future treatments, according to data.

“Genes are not static. They turn on or off depending on what signals they receive from elsewhere in the body or in the environment,” Rönn said. “These methylation patterns can be passed on or inherited by new cells or the offspring. What is fascinating about the epigenetic process is that it seems to be affected by the way you live your life.”

For more information:

Rönn TS. Oral Presentation #107. Presented at: the 49th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes; Sept. 24-27, 2013; Barcelona, Spain.

Disclosure: The study was supported by Nilsson, Thuring, Söderberg, Påhlsson Foundations SRC, EFSD/Lilly grant and ALF.