- Revelations from a fly study could improve our understanding of protein malnutrition in humans. -
A new study led by KAIST researchers using fruit flies reveals how protein deficiency in the diet triggers cross talk between the gut and brain to induce a desire to eat foods rich in proteins or essential amino acids. This finding reported in the May 5 issue of Nature can lead to a better understanding of malnutrition in humans.
“All organisms require a balanced intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for their well being,” explained KAIST neuroscientist and professor Greg Seong-Bae Suh. “Taking in sufficient calories alone won’t do the job, as it can still lead to severe forms of malnutrition including kwashiorkor, if the diet does not include enough proteins,” he added.
Scientists already knew that inadequate protein intake in organisms causes a preferential choice of foods rich in proteins or essential amino acids but they didn’t know precisely how this happens. A group of researchers led by Professor Suh at KAIST and Professor Won-Jae Lee at Seoul National University (SNU) investigated this process in flies by examining the effects of different genes on food preference following protein deprivation.
The group found that protein deprivation triggered the release of a gut hormone called neuropeptide CNMamide (CNMa) from a specific population of enterocytes - the intestine lining cells. Until now, scientists have known that enterocytes release digestive enzymes into the intestine to help digest and absorb nutrients in the gut. “Our study showed that enterocytes have a more complex role than we previously thought,” said Professor Suh.
Enterocytes respond to protein deprivation by releasing CNMa that conveys the nutrient status in the gut to the CNMa receptors on nerve cells in the brain. This then triggers a desire to eat foods containing essential amino acids.
Interestingly, the KAIST-SNU team also found that the microbiome - Acetobacter bacteria - present in the gut produces amino acids that can compensate for mild protein deficit in the diet. This basal level of amino acids provided by the microbiome modifies CNMa release and tempers the flies’ compensatory desire to ingest more proteins.
The research team was able to further clarify two signalling pathways that respond to protein loss from the diet and ultimately produce the CNMa hormone in these specific enterocytes.
The team said that further studies are still needed to understand how CNMa communicates with its receptors in the brain, and whether this happens by directly activating nerve cells that link the gut to the brain or by indirectly activating the brain through blood circulation. Their research could provide insights into the understanding of similar process in mammals including humans.
“We chose to investigate a simple organism, the fly, which would make it easier for us to identify and characterize key nutrient sensors. Because all organisms have cravings for needed nutrients, the nutrient sensors and their pathways we identified in flies would also be relevant to those in mammals. We believe that this research will greatly advance our understanding of the causes of metabolic disease and eating-related disorders,” Professor Suh added.
This work was supported by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation (SSTF) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea.
< Overview of the microbiome–gut–brain axis. CNMa is upregulated by Atf4 and Mitf (and possibly other unknown factors) during the deprivation of essential amino acids, and this acts on CNMaR-expressing neurons to stimulate the compensatory appetite for essential amino acids. >
Kim, B., et al. (2021) Response of the Drosophila microbiome– gut–brain axis to amino acid deficit. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03522-2
Greg Seong-Bae Suh, Ph.D
Lab of Neural Interoception
Department of Biological Sciences
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Daejeon 34141, Korea
< High-speed shadowgraph movie of water surface deformations induced by plasma impingement. > A study by KAIST researchers revealed that an ionized gas jet blowing onto water, also known as a ‘plasma jet’, produces a more stable interaction with the water’s surface compared to a neutral gas jet. This finding reported in the April 1 issue of Nature will help improve the scientific understanding of plasma-liquid interactions and their practical applications in a wide ran2021-04-01
- The first images of mid-infrared optical waves compressed 1,000 times captured using a highly sensitive scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscope. - KAIST researchers and their collaborators at home and abroad have successfully demonstrated a new methodology for direct near-field optical imaging of acoustic graphene plasmon fields. This strategy will provide a breakthrough for the practical applications of acoustic graphene plasmon platforms in next-generation, high-perfor2021-03-16
- Researchers reports a new strategy for the microbial production of multiple short-chain primary amines via retrobiosynthesis. - KAIST metabolic engineers presented the bio-based production of multiple short-chain primary amines that have a wide range of applications in chemical industries for the first time. The research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering designed the novel biosynthetic pathways for short-chain primary2021-01-14
There are diverse methods for producing numerous inorganic nanomaterials involving many experimental variables. Among the numerous possible matches, finding the best pair for synthesizing in an environmentally friendly way has been a longstanding challenge for researchers and industries. A KAIST bioprocess engineering research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee conducted a summary of 146 biosynthesized single and multi-element inorganic nanomaterials covering 55 elements in the2020-12-07
Professor Jungwon Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering was selected as the ‘Scientist of the Month’ for October 2020 by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Research Foundation of Korea. Professor Kim was recognized for his contributions to expanding the horizons of the basics of precision engineering through his research on multifunctional ultrahigh-speed, high-resolution sensors. He received 10 million KRW in prize money. Professor Kim was selected as th2020-10-15