The study reports that piceatannol – a compound that is structurally similar to resveratrol – has been found to block cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop. The researchers, from Purdue University, USA, say that the study could open a new door to potential methods of controlling obesity.
Writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry,Kee-Hong Kim and his colleagues reported that the compound, which is produced as a metabolite of resveratrol – blocks an immature fat cell's ability to develop and grow, in laboratory tests.
"Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells," said Kim.
"In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis."
Resveratrol’s little brother?
While similar in structure to resveratrol, which is also found in red wine, grapes and peanuts, the two related compounds do seem to have sdifferent functions and possible health benefits, noted the authors.
They noted that whilst resveratrol is thought to have potential in combating cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases, piceatannol could play an important role in fighting fat.
However, it should be noted that the current study was performed on laboratory cell cultures. A 2006 study showed that when injected into rats, the compound had poor bioavailability and was rapidly broken down.
The researchers noted that despite the ‘well documented’ health benefit of resveratrol in intervention of the development of obesity – the role of piceatannol in the development of fat tissue and related diseases “is unknown.”
The team monitored the development of immature fat cells, called preadipocytes –finding that piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of immature fat cells in the first stage of adipogenesis, blocking insulin's ability to control cell cycles and activate genes that carry out further stages of fat cell formation.
"These precursor cells, even though they have not accumulated lipids, have the potential to become fat cells," said Kim.
"We consider that adipogenesis is an important molecular target to delay or prevent fat cell accumulation and, hopefully, body fat mass gain."
Kim added that he would like to confirm the current finding, which is based on a cell culture system, using an animal model of obesity, and noted that future work would also include determining ways to protect piceatannol from breaking down in the body.
"We need to work on improving the stability and solubility of piceatannol to create a biological effect," Kim said.
Source: Journal of Biological Chemistry
Volume 287, Pages11566-11578, doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.259721
“Piceatannol, Natural Polyphenolic Stilbene, Inhibits Adipogenesis via Modulation of Mitotic Clonal Expansion and Insulin Receptor-dependent Insulin Signaling in Early Phase of Differentiation”
Authors: J.Y. Kwon, S.G. Seo, Y.S. Heo, S. Yue, J.X. Cheng, et al