Indian Journal of Medical Research

: 2016  |  Volume : 143  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 264--266

Is fat mass & obesity-associated (FTO) gene master regulator of obesity ?

Balraj Mittal1, Apurva Srivastava2, Neena Srivastava3,  
1 Department of Genetics, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Genetics, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Uttar Pradesh; Department of Physiology, King George's Medical University, Lucknow 226 024, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Department of Physiology, King George's Medical University, Lucknow 226 024, Uttar Pradesh, India

Correspondence Address:
Balraj Mittal
Department of Genetics, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Uttar Pradesh

How to cite this article:
Mittal B, Srivastava A, Srivastava N. Is fat mass & obesity-associated (FTO) gene master regulator of obesity ?.Indian J Med Res 2016;143:264-266

How to cite this URL:
Mittal B, Srivastava A, Srivastava N. Is fat mass & obesity-associated (FTO) gene master regulator of obesity ?. Indian J Med Res [serial online] 2016 [cited 2021 Mar 2 ];143:264-266
Available from:

Full Text

Obesity is a major health problem worldwide and is associated with a risk of many chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer[1]. The aetiology of obesity is multi-factorial and any combination of environmental and lifestyle factors may possibly interact with multiple genetic variants to result in obesity[2]. In such multifactorial disorders, genome-wide association study (GWAS) is used to discover genetic variants associated with diseases. In 2007, using GWAS, a UK research team led by Dr Andrew Hattersley of Peninsula Medical School in Exeter discovered a gene variant that showed strong link with body mass index (BMI)[3]. The gene harbouring the variant was named as fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO). Further studies on 13 cohorts of 38,759 Britons, Finns and Italians also showed similar link between the FTO variant andbodyweight. Subsequently, several other genetic variants of FTO such as rs9939609[4], rs9930506[5], rs1421085, rs17817449, and rs1121980[6] have also been shown to confer very significant risk for obesity.

In subsequent years, studies in different cohorts such as control of blood pressure and risk attenuation (COBRA) study [0.52 kg/m2 (95% CI 0.15-0.89) P = 0.006] and the UK Asian Diabetes Study/Diabetes Genetics in Pakistan (UKADS/DGP) study[7] [0.42 kg/m2 (95% CI 0.16-0.68); P = 0.002], and combined meta-analysis of these two studies [0.45 kg/m2 (95% CI 0.24-0.67); P = 0.001] have shown increase in BMI with rising numbers of risk-alleles of FTO[7]. A replication study in Singaporean Chinese, Malay and Asian-Indian populations have also confirmed the effect of FTO genetic variants and obesity risk[8]. Replication studies of FTO rs9939609 carried out in Polish population showed that the AA genotype of rs9939609 was associated with higher BMI in children and adults[9],[10]. It has been shown that the risk alleles of several FTO genetic variants within 47 kb linkage disequilibrium (LD) block on sections of intron 1 and exon 2 of FTO gene are associated with obesity[4],[5],[6].

In the current issue, Wrzosek et al [11]investigated the association between FTO linked single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP, rs9930506) with obesity risk in Polish population. Their study group consisted of 442 adults, aged 33.9 ±12.7 yr with mean BMI 27.2 ± 5.4 kg/m2. They found that variant G-allele of rs9930506 was associated with higher BMI and a 1.5 kg/m2 increase in BMI per G-allele was also noticed. The results of this individual association study in context to obesity and FTO rs9930506 association indicated that parts of the Polish population are carriers of this genetic variant which may significantly increase the risk of developing obesity in their population. However, the study evaluated the association of single SNP with BMI but its association with other obesity-linked anthropometric and biochemical parameters could also have been evaluated.

In humans, FTO is expressed in the cell nucleus of every tissue[6]. The gene is highly expressed in hypothalamus and its arcuate, paraventricular, dorsomedial and ventromedial nuclei[12] controlling energy homeostasis and eating behaviour[3]. Studies in mouse models have shown that non-coding FTO regions act as long range enhancers contributing to obesity-linked phenotypes[13],[14],[15]. However, there is no evidence that such enhancers are connected with regulation of FTO expression[16],[17],[18].

Recently, it has been revealed that FTO and obesity association might be due to linkage disequilibrium between FTO intronic variations and other genes. Smemo and colleagues[19] have shown that variants within FTO act as long-range target on IRX3 gene located approximately 500kb downstream. Our unpublished results also support that genetic variants of FTO rs8050136, rs1421085, rs9939609, rs17817449 and IRX3 rs3751723 are in high linkage disequilibrium (LD) and their interactions significantly contribute towards obesity risk in north Indian population[20]. Thus, the association between FTO and obesity appears to be due to its influence on expression of IRX3 [Figure 1]. Genetic studies indicated FTO as an important gene for obesity risk in various populations but the recent developments suggest that obesity-associated FTO SNPs have long-range interactions with IRX3. Therefore, the exact contribution of FTO in obesity risk is still debatable. In addition, it would be of interest to identify various genes and molecules regulated by FTO-IRX3 for the development of novel therapies against obesity and diabetes.{Figure 1}


1Kopelman P. Health risks associated with overweight and obesity. Obes Rev 2007; 8 : 13-17.
2Marti A, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Martinez JA . Interaction between genes and lifestyle factors on obesity. Proc Nutr Soc 2008; 67 : 1-8.
3Burton PR, Clayton DG, Cardon LR, Craddock N, Deloukas P, Duncanson A, et al. Genome-wide association study of 14,000 cases of seven common diseases and 3,000 shared controls. Nature 2007; 447 : 661-78.
4Frayling TM, Timpson NJ, Weedon MN, Zeggini E, Freathy RM, Lindgren CM, et al. A common variant in the FTO gene is associated with body mass index and predisposes to childhood and adult obesity. Science 2007; 316 : 889-94.
5Scuteri A, Sanna S, Chen WM, Uda M, Alba G, Strait J, et al. Genome-wide association scan shows genetic variants in the FTO gene are associated with obesity-related traits. PLoS Genet 2007; 3 : e115.
6Dina C, Meyre D, Gallina S, Durand E, Korner A, Jacobson P, et al. Variation in FTO contributes to childhood obesity and severe adult obesity. Nat Genet 2007; 39 : 724-6.
7Rees SD, Islam M, Hydrie MZI, Chaudhary B, Bellary S, Hashmi S, et al. An FTO variant is associated with Type 2 diabetes in South Asian populations after accounting for body mass index and waist circumference. Diabet Med 2011; 28 : 673-80.
8Dorajoo R, Blakemore A, Sim X, Ong RT. Replication of 13 obesity loci among Singaporean Chinese, Malay and Asian-Indian populations. Int J Obes (Lond) 2012; 36 : 159-63.
9Luczynski W, Zalewski G, Bossowski A. The association of the FTO rs9939609 polymorphism with obesity and metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in Polish children. J Physiol Pharmacol 2012; 63 : 241-8.
10Sobczyk-Kopciol A, Broda G, Wojnar M, Kurjata P, Jakubczyk A, Klimkiewicz A, et al. Inverse association of the obesity predisposing FTO rs9939609 genotype with alcohol consumption and risk for alcohol dependence. Addiction 2011; 106 : 739-48.
11Wrzosek M, Zakrzewska A, Ruczko L, Jabłonowska-Lietz B, Nowicka G. Association between the rs9930506 polymorphism of the fat mass & obesity associated (FTO) gene & onset of obesity in Polish adults. Indian J Med Res 2016; 143 : 281-7.
12Gerken T, Girard CA, Tung YC, Webby CJ, Saudek V, Hewitson KS. The obesity-associated FTO gene encodes a 2-oxoglutarate-dependent nucleic acid demethylase. Science 2007; 318 : 1469-72.
13Church C, Moir L, McMurray F, Girard C, Banks GT, Teboul L, et al. Overexpression of Fto leads to increased food intake and results in obesity. Nature Genet 2010; 42 : 1086-92.
14Fischer J, Koch L, Emmerling C, Vierkotten J, Peters T, Brüning JC, et al. Inactivation of the FTO gene protects from obesity. Nature 2009; 458 : 894-8.
15Gao X1, Shin YH, Li M, Wang F, Tong Q, Zhang P. The fatmass and obesity associated gene FTO functions in the brain to regulate postnatal growth in mice. PLoS One 2010; 5 : e14005.
16Grunnet LG1, Nilsson E, Ling C, Hansen T, Pedersen O, Groop L, et al. Regulation and function of FTO mRNA expression in human skeletal muscle and subcutaneous adipose tissue. Diabetes 2009; 58 : 2402-8.
17Kloting N, Schleinitz D, Ruschke K, Berndt J, Fasshauer M, Tonjes A, et al. Inverse relationship between obesity and FTO gene expression in visceral adipose tissue in humans. Diabetologia 2008; 51 : 641-7.
18Wahlen K, Sjolin E, Hoffstedt J. The common rs9939609 gene variant of the fat mass- and obesity-associated gene FTO is related to fat cell lipolysis. J Lipid Res 2008; 49 : 607-11.
19Smemo S, Tena JJ, Kim KH, Gamazon ER. Obesity-associated variants within FTO form long-range functional connections with IRX3. Nature 2014; 507 : 371-5.
20Srivastava A, Mittal B, Prakash J, Srivastava P, Srivastava N, Srivastava N. Association of FTO and IRX3 genetic variants to obesity risk in north India. Ann Hum Biol 2015; 3 : 1-6.