Body weight heavily influenced by genetic variants -

How genetic variants and body weight are linked

Overweight and obesity have long been associated with hereditary predispositions. However, according to a recent study, it is not the coding genes that influence body weight, but in particular the so-called circular RNAs (circRNA).

Researchers from University Hospital Essen and University Hospital Heidelberg investigated the links between body weight and genetic factors, with a particular focus on circRNA. The results of the corresponding study were published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

What genetic variants affect weight?

Body weight is also regulated by genetic factors, and large studies have already identified nearly 1,000 sites in the genome that influence body weight or body mass index (BMI), the researchers report.

“The variants found are often outside the actual genes, i.e. not in the so-called coding area,” says study author Professor Dr. Anke Hinney of University Hospital of Essen.

The new study therefore focused mainly on circular RNA, which belongs to non-coding RNA species. “We were able to show that genetic variants associated with BMI expression are often localized to circRNAs,” Professor Hinney reports.

CircRNA seems to be decisive

The first author of the study, Luisa Rajcsanyi from University Hospital Essen, adds that it is exciting that an increased level of circRNA is actually detectable in people who carry a genetic variant that increases BMI.

However, this effect should not be attributed to the direct effect of circRNAs, but the path presumably passes through an intermediary station - the mircoRNA. CircRNAs are thus able to bind to miRNAs.

MiRNAs can in turn regulate how often a gene is read, and when bound by circRNAs, this regulatory function is blocked, the researchers explain.

Disease-associated gene variant often on circRNA

Experts add that genetic variants for other disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, chronic kidney disease and the eating disorder anorexia nervosa also appear to occur with higher than average frequency on circRNAs.

"Many of these diseases seem to be caused not only by a transcribed gene, but also because the circRNA influences the expression, i.e. the frequency of transcription of the gene", summarize Professor Hinney and first author Rajcsanyi . (fp)

Author and source information

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Essen University Hospital: Circular RNA: Genetic Variants Influence Body Weight (published August 5, 2022), idw-online.deLuisa Sophie Rajcsanyi, Inga Diebels, Lydia Pastoors, Deniz Kanber, Triinu Peters, Anna-Lena Volckmar, Yiran Zheng, Martin Grosse, Christoph Dieterich, Johannes Hebebrand, Frank J. Kaiser, Bernhard Horsthemke, Anke Hinney: Evidence for correlations between BMI-associated SNPs and circRNAs; in: Scientific Reports (published 07/25/2022),

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.