Iowa State protein discovery may inform insulin regulation

Rudy Valentine works with a team aiming to identify a protein that impairs insulin signaling.
Rudy Valentine works with a team aiming to identify a protein that impairs insulin signaling. | Contributed photo
Iowa State University researchers have recently found a protein that impacts the production of insulin in the body.
  
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Rudy Valentine was a part of the team that discovered the effect reduced activity of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) has on the body. It has been reported that obesity and diabetes have been shown to reduce this protein’s activity. The researchers say that while discovering how to activate a protein is understood, the main task here is to determine what causes decreased activity.

The protein acts as an energy sensor in the body, and decreased activity can have metabolic complications that can include cancer, heart disease and stroke. In studying this protein, the team found that the protein PKD1 may play a role in inhibiting the AMPK protein.
  
“It’s a pretty technical process,” Valentine said. “There are probably a lot of different molecules that are also involved in this process, but this is definitely one of the mechanisms by which the molecule AMPK is downregulated.”

Researchers have also indicated that for those who are physically able to, increased exercise and physical activity may also help.

“We want to know if there are lifestyle things people can do such as nutraceuticals and certain foods that can inhibit this enzyme and lead to more activation of AMPK and improve insulin sensitivity,” Valentine said.

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