Researchers have found a specific gene that plays an important role in keeping a steady weight by balancing food intake and energy use.

The Scripps Research Institute study may help scientists better understand the key to fighting obesity and related disorders such as diabetes. The study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Researchers focused on the melanocortin-3 receptor (MC3R) which normally responds to signals of nutrient intake. They found a distinct change in how an animal model maintained metabolic homeostasis (balance of nutrient and energy use) by suppressing the MC3R expression in the brain and peripheral tissues.

In the animal study, mice with a suppressed MC3R gene in the brain displayed an obese physical appearance, indicating that loss of MC3R activity peripherally impairs metabolic homeostasis.

"We thought that the actions of the receptor expressed in the brain would be critical for metabolic homeostasis. However, what we found is that actions of the receptor expressed outside the brain appear to be equally important," said Andrew Butler Scripps Research Associate Professor, who led the study.

Butler points out that the receptor impact on obesity still remains unknown, but MC3R signaling does play an important role in the peripheral tissues for metabolic homeostasis.

"It's clear that these peripheral receptors are important and the new mouse model will let us explore that potential," said Butler.