Current review of genetics of human obesity: from molecular mechanisms to an evolutionary perspective

Abstract

It is well-known that obesity is a complex multifactorial and heterogeneous condition with an important genetic component. Recently, major advances in obesity research emerged concerning the molecular mechanisms contributing to the obese condition. This review outlines several studies and data concerning the genetics and other important factors in the susceptibility risk to develop obesity. Based in the genetic etiology three main categories of obesity are considered: monogenic, syndromic, and common obesity. For the monogenic forms of obesity, the gene causing the phenotype is clearly identified, whereas for the common obesity the loci architecture underlying the phenotype is still being characterized. Given that, in this review we focus mainly in this obesity form, reviewing loci found until now by genome-wide association studies related with the susceptibility risk to develop obesity. Moreover, we also detail the obesity-related loci identified in children and in different ethnic groups, trying to highlight the complexity of the genetics underlying the common obese phenotype. Importantly, we also focus in the evolutionary hypotheses that have been proposed trying to explain how natural selection favored the spread of genes that increase the risk for an obese phenotype and how this predisposition to obesity evolved. Other factors are important in the obesity condition, and thus, we also discuss the epigenetic mechanisms involved in the susceptibility and development of obesity. Covering all these topics we expect to provide a complete and recent perspective about the underlying mechanisms involved in the development and origin of obesity. Only with a full understanding of the factors and mechanisms contributing to obesity, it will be possible to provide and allow the development of new therapeutic approaches to this condition.

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Acknowledgments

David Albuquerque as a PhD grant (SFRH/BD/68774/2010) from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT).

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All the authors recognize and disclose to have no conflict of interest to declare.

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Albuquerque, D., Stice, E., Rodríguez-López, R. et al. Current review of genetics of human obesity: from molecular mechanisms to an evolutionary perspective. Mol Genet Genomics 290, 1191–1221 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00438-015-1015-9

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Keywords

  • Obesity
  • Genetics of obesity
  • Epigenetics
  • MicroRNAs
  • Evolutionary perspectives
  • Nutrigenomics