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J Nutr. 1994 Aug;124(8 Suppl):1296S-1305S.

Diet-disease interactions at the molecular level: an experimental paradigm.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Urbana 61801.


High levels of dietary fat enhance the severity of certain cancers, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases in susceptible individuals usually after prolonged exposure. We have been developing methods for identifying and characterizing genes regulated by the level of dietary fat for the purpose of determining their role in diseases promoted by high levels of dietary fat, particularly cancer and atherosclerosis. Our protocol employs semi-purified diets of reproducible composition fed to normal inbred mice to obtain reagents for studying of molecular events that lead to pathology. Our early studies demonstrated that different levels of dietary fat cause the accumulation or change in expression of two genes, designated Lfm-1 and Lfm-2 (low fat mammary) in mouse mammary glands and selected other tissues. The Lfm-2 gene is stearoyl CoA desaturase, a gene known to be regulated by dietary fat and insulin levels. The Lfm-1 gene is highly similar to the e subunits of bovine and rat F1F0-ATPases. A Lfm-1 restriction fragment length polymorphism located on chromosome 8 is associated with atherosclerosis in certain inbred strains of mice warranting additional tests to determine whether it is involved in initiation or promotion of heart disease. The experimental approach has the potential for analyzing genes regulated by approximately 50 essential nutrients or other dietary constituents. A potential outcome of this research is the development of reagents which can be used to predict the risk of diet-related diseases in individuals.

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