We identify a target for treating obesity and type 2 diabetes, the consumption of calories by an increase in the metabolic rate of resting skeletal muscle. The metabolic rate of skeletal muscle can be increased by shifting myosin heads from the super-relaxed state (SRX), with a low ATPase activity, to a disordered relaxed state (DRX), with a higher ATPase activity. The shift of myosin heads was detected by a change in fluorescent intensity of a probe attached to the myosin regulatory light chain in skinned skeletal fibers, allowing us to perform a high-throughput screen of 2,128 compounds. The screen identified one compound, which destabilized the super-relaxed state, piperine (the main alkaloid component of black pepper). Destabilization of the SRX by piperine was confirmed by single-nucleotide turnover measurements. The effect was only observed in fast twitch skeletal fibers and not in slow twitch fibers or cardiac tissues. Piperine increased ATPase activity of skinned relaxed fibers by 66 ± 15%. The Kd was ∼2 µM. Piperine had little effect on the mechanics of either fully active or resting muscle fibers. Previous work has shown that piperine can mitigate both obesity and type 2 diabetes in rodent models of these conditions. We propose that the increase in resting muscle metabolism contributes to these positive effects. The results described here show that up-regulation of resting muscle metabolism could treat obesity and type 2 diabetes and that piperine would provide a useful lead compound for the development of these therapies.
Keywords: fluorescence; myosin; obesity; skeletal muscle; super-relaxed state.