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Sugar-Producing Proteins Point to New Diabetes Drugs

Two liver proteins work together to increase glucose production

WEDNESDAY, March 2, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The interaction between two proteins -- called sirtuin1 and PGC1-alpha -- may offer a target for the development of new drugs to treat diabetes, researchers say.

Reporting in the March 3 issue of Nature, investigators at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found the two proteins interact to prompt the liver to produce sugar, apparently as a means of increasing survival odds when food is scarce.

However, in people with diabetes, this boost in production of sugar by the liver can occur when it isn't needed and cause harm, they say.

The researchers studied fasting mice and noticed that sugar production by the liver went into high gear whenever there was a shortage of dietary calories. At the same time, the amount and activity of the two proteins also increased. But when the mice were given food, levels of the two proteins decreased, as did liver sugar production.

"It isn't a coincidence. The two proteins actually bind to each other, and without sirtuin1, PGC1 can't make glucose," Pere Puigserver, an assistant professor of cell biology at the university's Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, said in a prepared statement.

"Because both proteins are required for the liver to make sugar, targeting sirtuin1 in a very specific way might help control sugar production in people with diabetes. Sirtuin1 interacts with many different proteins, and it's just this one interaction you would want to prevent," Puigserver explained.

More information

The U.S. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse has more about diabetes.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Feb. 25, 2005
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