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Smokers’ Lower Body Weight Linked to Airway Gene

Last Updated: May 15, 2009.

The lower body weight in chronic smokers compared to nonsmokers may be caused by the increased expression of a gene in the airways that stimulates fat depletion, according to a study in the May issue of Chest.

FRIDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- The lower body weight in chronic smokers compared to nonsmokers may be caused by the increased expression of a gene in the airways that stimulates fat depletion, according to a study in the May issue of Chest.

To determine the association between smoking and body weight, Holly Vanni, M.D., of Cornell University in New York City, and colleagues used microarray analysis to evaluate the expression of genes associated with fat depletion from epithelial samples taken from the large airways of healthy smokers and healthy nonsmokers. The researchers focused on the expression of α2-zinc-glycoprotein 1 (AZGP1), a soluble protein expressed in the lung epithelium that is known to stimulate lipolysis and induce weight loss in mice.

In both microarray and TaqMan analyses, the researchers found the AZGP1 messenger RNA levels to be higher in the large airway epithelium of healthy smokers than healthy nonsmokers. Airway biopsy specimens from smokers also had increased up-regulation of AZGP1 compared with specimens from nonsmokers. The up-regulation of AZGP1 was found in both secretory and neuroendocrine cells of smokers in immunohistochemical analysis, the authors note.

"In the context that AZGP1 is involved in lipolysis and fat loss, its overexpression in the airway epithelium of chronic smokers may represent one mechanism for the weight difference in smokers versus nonsmokers," the authors write.

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