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Variant of agouti-related protein linked to anorexia nervosa
Edward R. Winstead

Researchers sequenced a human gene involved in regulating body weight and identified a variant of the gene that may be a risk factor for the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.

Roger Adan, of Utrecht University, The Netherlands, and colleagues sequenced the human orexigenic neuropeptide agouti-related gene, or AGRP. Based on studies of the AGRP gene in rodents, the researchers hypothesized that defects in the human gene may alter the balance of energy in the body and possibly lead to anorexia nervosa. One of three polymorphisms identified in the study was associated with an increased risk for the disease, according to a report this month in Molecular Psychiatry.

"Our results indicate that the 760A mutation conveys a relative risk…for carriers to develop anorexia nervosa," the researchers write. This conclusion is based on the frequency of the polymorphisms among a sample of affected individuals and controls. The researchers identified the variants using DNA from 100 patients with anorexia nervosa. They then searched for these variants in the AGRP genes of another 45 patients and 244 controls.

The researchers propose that a variant of the agouti-related protein may lead to a "decreased feeding signal" and that this is associated with susceptibility for anorexia nervosa.

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Vink, T. et al. Association between an agouti-related protein gene polymorphism and anorexia nervosa. Mol Psychiatry 6, 325-328 (May 2001).

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