Butyrylcholinesterase gene transfer in obese mice prevents postdieting body weight rebound by suppressing ghrelin signaling

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Oct 10;114(41):10960-10965. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1706517114. Epub 2017 Sep 25.


The worldwide prevalence of obesity is increasing at an alarming rate but treatment options remain limited. Despite initial success, weight loss by calorie restriction (CR) often fails because of rebound weight gain. Postdieting hyperphagia along with altered hypothalamic neuro-architecture appears to be one direct cause of this undesirable outcome. In response to calorie deficiency the circulating levels of the appetite-promoting hormone, acyl-ghrelin, rise sharply. We hypothesize that proper modulation of acyl-ghrelin and its receptor's sensitivity will favorably impact energy intake and reprogram the body weight set point. Here we applied viral gene transfer of the acyl-ghrelin hydrolyzing enzyme, butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity. Our results confirmed that BChE overexpression decreased circulating acyl-ghrelin levels, suppressed CR-provoked ghrelin signaling, and restored central ghrelin sensitivity. In addition to maintaining healthy body weights, BChE treated mice had modest postdieting food intake and showed normal glucose homeostasis. Spontaneous activity and energy expenditure did not differ significantly between treated and untreated mice after body weight rebound, suggesting that BChE gene transfer did not alter energy expenditure in the long term. These findings indicate that combining BChE treatment with CR could be an effective approach in treating human obesity and aiding lifelong weight management.

Keywords: body weight rebound; butyrylcholinesterase; diet-induced obesity; food intake; ghrelin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite
  • Body Weight
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / metabolism*
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Eating
  • Ghrelin / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Ghrelin / metabolism
  • Hyperphagia / metabolism
  • Hyperphagia / pathology
  • Hyperphagia / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Obese
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Weight Gain
  • Weight Loss


  • Ghrelin
  • Butyrylcholinesterase