The protein is called BAF60c and is found in the cytoplasm of liver cells. When the cell is exposed to insulin during feeding, BAF60c is phosphorylated, and the transformation causes it to enter the nucleus. There, it interacts with other proteins and helps activate genes involved in converting carbohydrates into fat.
As reported by Hei Sook Sul, PhD, of the University of California Berkeley, and colleagues in Molecular Cell, mice with elevated levels of BAF60c in their livers had increased expression of the fat-producing genes, even in a fasting state.
When production of BAF60c was disabled, however, the conversion of carbohydrates to fat was inhibited, even when the animals were eating a diet high in carbs.
"The discovery of this role of BAF60c may eventually lead to the development of treatment for millions of Americans with fatty liver and other related diseases," Sul said in a statement.