Intermittent fasting controls master regulator of fat metabolism in liver and helps prevent disease

Intermittent fasting controls master regulator of fat metabolism in liver and helps prevent disease

Researchers have used state-of-the-art analytical tools to understand how intermittent fasting works on the liver to help prevent disease. The findings will help medical scientists working in cancer, cardiovascular and diabetes research develop new interventions to lower disease risk and discover the optimum intervals for fasting.

In experiments with mice, the researchers identified how every-other-day fasting affected proteins in the liver, showing unexpected impact on fatty acid metabolism and the surprising role played by a master regulator protein that controls many biological pathways in the liver and other organs.

"We know that fasting can be an effective intervention to treat disease and improve liver health. But we haven't known how fasting reprograms liver proteins, which perform a diverse array of essential metabolic functions," said the senior author.

"By studying the impact on proteins in the livers of mice, which are suitable human biological models, we now have a much better understanding of how this happens."

In particular, the researchers found that the HNF4-(alpha) protein, which regulates a large number of liver genes, plays a previously unknown role during intermittent fasting.

"For the first time we showed that HNF4-(alpha) is inhibited during intermittent fasting. This has downstream consequences, such as lowering the abundance of blood proteins in inflammation or affecting bile synthesis. This helps explain some of the previously known facts about intermittent fasting," the author said.

The researchers also found that every-other-day-fasting - where no food was consumed on alternate days - changed the metabolism of fatty acids in the liver, knowledge that could be applied to improvements in glucose tolerance and the regulation of diabetes.

"What's really exciting is that this new knowledge about the role of HNF4-(alpha) means it could be possible to mimic some of the effects of intermittent fasting through the development of liver-specific HNF4-(alpha) regulators," the author said. The research, published in Cell Reports.

A technique known as multi-Omics, which considers multiple data sets such as the total collection of proteins and genes, was used in the study, allowing for the integration of large amounts of information to discover new associations within biological systems.

The multi-Omics data was obtained at Sydney Mass Spectrometry, part of the University of Sydney's Core Research Facilities.

"Last year we published research into the impact of every-other-day-fasting on humans. Using these mouse data, we can now build up improved models of fasting for better human health."