Insulin-suppressing hormone discovered

Limostatin stops fruit flies, and perhaps people, from producing the glucose-regulating protein

glass of water on an empty plate

Named for Limos, the Greek goddess of starvation, the newly discovered hormone limostatin suppresses insulin production and secretion.

Jean Fortunet/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 1.0)

A long-sought hormone that plays a role in regulating glucose has been captured by researchers studying fruit flies. The hormone, called limostatin, lowers production of insulin and prevents its release from cells.

Insulin instructs cells to burn the sugar glucose. Scientists have theorized for decades that there must be a hormone that stops insulin from being made or released, so that people and animals don’t burn through all their glucose and starve to death after skipping a few meals.

To find it, Ronald Alfa of Stanford University and colleagues sent fruit flies to their cages without food for a day. Lab tests unveiled a hormone that is made when flies are fasting and that reins in insulin, the team reports in the Feb. 3 Cell Metabolism. The researchers named the new hormone after Limos, the Greek goddess of starvation.

A similar hormone called Neuromedin U may play the same role in humans. Flies that lack limostatin get fatter than usual. People who have mutations in the Neuromedin U gene are also obese and have other metabolic problems.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

More Stories from Science News on Life