Historic and emerging studies provide evidence for the deterioration of pancreatic α cell function and identity in diabetes mellitus. Increased access to human tissue and the availability of more sophisticated molecular technologies have revealed key insights into how α cell function and identity are preserved in healthy conditions and how they become dysfunctional in response to stress. These studies have revealed evidence of impaired glucagon secretion, shifts in α cell electrophysiology, changes in α cell mass, dysregulation of α cell transcription and α-to-β cell conversion prior to and during diabetes. In this review we outline the current state of research on α cell identity in health and disease. Evidence in model organisms and humans suggests that in addition to β cell dysfunction, diabetes is associated with a fundamental dysregulation of α cell identity. Importantly, epigenetic studies have revealed that α cells retain more poised and open chromatin at key cell-specific and diabetes-dysregulated genes, supporting the model that inherent epigenetic plasticity of α cells makes them susceptible to the transcriptional changes that potentiate the loss of identity and function seen in diabetes. Thus, further research into the maintenance of α cell identity and function is critical to fully understanding diabetes and support studies that suggest α cells could represent an alternative source of new β cells for diabetes treatment.
Elliott P Brooks and Lori Sussel
Timothy J Dreyer, Jacob AC Keen, Leah M Wells, and Scott J Roberts
As a key regulator of bone homeostasis, sclerostin has garnered a lot of interest over the last two decades. Although sclerostin is primarily expressed by osteocytes and is well known for its role in bone formation and remodelling, it is also expressed by a number of other cells and potentially plays a role in other organs. Herein, we aim to bring together recent sclerostin research and discuss the effect of sclerostin on bone, cartilage, muscle, liver, kidney and the cardiovascular and immune systems. Particular focus is placed on its role in diseases, such as osteoporosis and myeloma bone disease, and the novel development of sclerostin as a therapeutic target. Anti-sclerostin antibodies have recently been approved for the treatment of osteoporosis. However, a cardiovascular signal was observed, prompting extensive research into the role of sclerostin in vascular and bone tissue crosstalk. The study of sclerostin expression in chronic kidney disease was followed by the investigation of its role in liver–lipid–bone interactions, and the recent discovery of sclerostin as a myokine prompted new research into sclerostin within the bone–muscle relationship. Potentially, the effects of sclerostin reach beyond that of bone alone. We further summarise recent developments in the use of sclerostin as a potential therapeutic for osteoarthritis, osteosarcoma and sclerosteosis. Overall, these new treatments and discoveries illustrate progress within the field, however, also highlight remaining gaps in our knowledge.
Ken KY Ho, Anthony J O’Sullivan, and Morton G Burt
The fact that growth hormone (GH) plays an important role in health after the cessation of growth requiring replacement therapy in adult life has only been recognised in the last three decades. This has only been made possible by recombinant technology providing GH supplies required to undertake investigations in the physiology of GH action and the benefits of replacement therapy in patients identified by rigorously validated diagnostic tests for GH deficiency (GHD). Human studies have revealed important regulatory roles in substrate metabolism, sodium homeostasis, body composition, and physical function. GH-induced anabolism is achieved by stimulating amino acid incorporation into protein while reducing oxidative loss simultaneously enhancing lipid utilisation by stimulating fatty acid oxidation and reducing lipid storage. Sodium and fluid retention are enhanced by activating the renin–angiotensin system and distal renal tubular reabsorption. GH stimulates the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems that underpin muscle and cardiovascular function. These pleiotropic actions explain the clinical picture of increased adiposity, reduced lean mass, and impaired physical and psychological function in the GHD adult, all of which are reversed when GH is replaced. Women require a greater replacement dose of GH than men. This is because androgens enhance while oestrogens attenuate GH action. The oestrogen effect is route-dependent, occurring with oral delivery blunting the liver-mediated actions of GH by directly inhibiting GH receptor signalling, global experience spanning over 30 years has attested to the safety, efficacy, and benefits of replacement therapy for adults with GHD.
Gary A Wittert, Mathis Grossmann, Bu B Yeap, and David J Handelsman
Testosterone acting via the androgen receptor, and via aromatisation to oestradiol, an activator of the oestrogen receptor, plays key roles in adipose tissue, bone, and skeletal muscle biology. This is reflected in epidemiological studies associating obesity and disordered glucose metabolism with lower serum testosterone concentrations and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in men. Testosterone also modulates erythrocytosis and vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cell function, with potential impacts on haematocrit and the cardiovascular system. The Testosterone for the Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes (T4DM) study enrolled men aged 50 years and over with a waist circumference of 95cm or over, impaired glucose tolerance or newly diagnosed T2D, and a serum testosterone concentration (as measured by chemiluminescence immunoassay) <14.0 nmol/L. The study reported that 2 years treatment with testosterone undecanoate 1000mg, administered 3-monthly intramuscularly, on the background of a lifestyle program, reduced the likelihood of T2D diagnosis by 40% compared to placebo. This effect was accompanied by a decrease in fasting serum glucose, and associated with favourable changes in body composition, hand grip strength, bone mineral density and skeletal microarchitecture, but not in HbA1c, a red blood cell-dependent measure of glycaemic control. There was no signal for cardiovascular adverse events. With the objective of informing translational science and future directions, this commentary discusses mechanistic studies underpinning the rationale for T4DM, and translational implications of the key outcomes relating to glycaemia, and body composition, together with effects on erythrocytosis, and cardiovascular risk and slow recovery of the hypothalamo-pituitary-testicular axis.
Rui Gao, Samuel Acreman, Jinfang Ma, Fernando Abdulkader, Anna Wendt, and Quan Zhang
Glucagon is the principal glucose-elevating hormone that forms the first-line defence against hypoglycaemia. Along with insulin, glucagon also plays a key role in maintaining systemic glucose homeostasis. The cells that secrete glucagon, pancreatic α-cells, are electrically excitable cells and use electrical activity to couple its hormone secretion to changes in ambient glucose levels. Exactly how glucose regulates α-cells has been a topic of debate for decades but it is clear that electrical signals generated by the cells play an important role in glucagon secretory response. Decades of studies have already revealed the key players involved in the generation of these electrical signals and possible mechanisms controlling them to tune glucagon release. This has offered the opportunity to fully understand the enigmatic α-cell physiology. In this review, we describe the current knowledge on cellular electrophysiology and factors regulating excitability, glucose sensing, and glucagon secretion. We also discuss α-cell pathophysiology and the perspective of addressing glucagon secretory defects in diabetes for developing better diabetes treatment, which bears the hope of eliminating hypoglycaemia as a clinical problem in diabetes care.
Jessica Milano-Foster and Laura Clamon Schulz
Modeling preeclampsia remains difficult due to the nature of the disease and the unique characteristics of the human placenta. Members of the Hominidae superfamily have a villous hemochorial placenta that is different in structure from those of other therian mammals, including the mouse hemochorial placenta, making this common animal model less ideal for studying this disease. Human placental tissues delivered from pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia are excellent for assessing the damage the disease causes but cannot answer how or when the disease begins. Symptoms of preeclampsia manifest halfway through pregnancy or later, making it currently impossible to identify preeclampsia in human tissues obtained from an early stage of pregnancy. Many animal and cell culture models recapitulate various aspects of preeclampsia, though none can on its own completely capture the complexity of human preeclampsia. It is particularly difficult to uncover the cause of the disease using models in which the disease is induced in the lab. However, the many ways by which preeclampsia-like features can be induced in a variety of laboratory animals are consistent with the idea that preeclampsia is a two-stage disease, in which a variety of initial insults may lead to placental ischemia, and ultimately systemic symptoms. The recent development of stem cell- based models, organoids, and various coculture systems have brought in vitro systems with human cells ever closer to recapitulating in vivo events that lead to placental ischemia.
Emma Wilson, Fiona J Ramage, Kimberley E Wever, Emily Sena, Malcolm Robert Macleod, and Gillian Laura Currie
In biomedicine and many other fields, there are growing concerns around the reproducibility of research findings, with many researchers being unable to replicate their own or others’ results. This raises important questions as to the validity and usefulness of much published research. In this review, we aim to engage researchers in the issue of research reproducibility and equip them with the necessary tools to increase the reproducibility of their research. We first highlight the causes and potential impact of non-reproducible research and emphasise the benefits of working reproducibly for the researcher and broader research community. We address specific targets for improvement and steps that individual researchers can take to increase the reproducibility of their work. We next provide recommendations for improving the design and conduct of experiments, focusing on in vivo animal experiments. We describe common sources of poor internal validity of experiments and offer practical guidance for limiting these potential sources of bias at different experimental stages, as well as discussing other important considerations during experimental design. We provide a list of key resources available to researchers to improve experimental design, conduct, and reporting. We then discuss the importance of open research practices such as study preregistration and the use of preprints and describe recommendations around data management and sharing. Our review emphasises the importance of reproducible work and aims to empower every individual researcher to contribute to the reproducibility of research in their field.
Antonella Rosario Ramona Cáceres, Fiorella Campo Verde Arboccó, María de los Ángeles Sanhueza, Daniela Alejandra Cardone, Graciela Beatriz Rodriguez, Marilina Casais, Adriana Soledad Vega Orozco, and Myriam Raquel Laconi
Neuroactive steroids can rapidly regulate multiple physiological functions on the central and peripheral nervous systems. The aims of the present study were to determine whether allopregnanolone (ALLO), administered in a low nanomolar and a high micromolar concentrations, can: a) induce changes in the ovarian progesterone (P4) and estradiol (E2) release, b) modify the ovarian mRNA expression of 3 β-HSD, 20 α-HSD and 3 α-HSD, c) modulate the ovarian expression of progesterone receptors A and B, α and β estrogenic receptors, LH receptor (LHR) and FSH receptor (FSHR). To further characterize ALLO peripheral actions, the effects were evaluated using a superior mesenteric ganglion-ovarian nervous plexus-ovary (SMG-ONP-O) and a denervated ovary (DO) systems. ALLO SMG administration increased P4 concentration in the incubation liquid, by decreasing ovarian 20α-HSD mRNA, it also increased ovarian 3α-HSOR mRNA expression. In addition, ALLO neural peripheral modulation induced an increase in the expression of ovarian LHR, PRA, PRB, and ERα. Direct ALLO administration to the DO decreased E2 and increased P4 concentration in the incubation liquid. The mRNA expression of 3β-HSD decreased, and 20α-HSD increased. Further, ALLO in the OD significantly changed ovarian FSHR, and PRA expression. This is the first evidence of ALLO direct effect on ovarian steroidogenesis. Our results provide important insights about how this neuroactive steroid interacts both with the PNS and the ovary, these findings might help devise some of the pleiotropic effects of neuroactive steroids on female reproduction. Moreover, ALLO modulation of ovarian physiology might help uncover novel treatment approaches for reproductive diseases.
Yuta Kasahara, Hiroshi Kishi, Ryo Yokomizo, and Aikou Okamoto
There are many previous reports on the effects of ethanol on physiological function, including reports of elevated blood estrogen levels in women who drank alcohol. However, the mechanism of ethanol's effects on ovarian functions, such as follicle development and hormone secretion, has not been fully clarified. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the impacts of ethanol on these phenomena and their mechanisms using a primary culture system of rat ovarian granulosa cells (GCs). In the present experiment, groups were created in which follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or ethanol was added alone or FSH and ethanol were co-added, and mRNA and protein expression in each group was measured for luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR) and sex steroid hormone synthase, as well as for estradiol (E2) production, cAMP production, and FSH receptor (FSHR) internalization rate. The addition of FSH induced mRNA expression of LHR and aromatase, which led to membrane LHR expression and E2 production. The coexistence of ethanol enhanced all these responses. The action of FSH is exerted via cAMP, and the co-addition of ethanol enhanced this cAMP production. Ethanol alone did not induce cAMP production. The enhancing effect of ethanol was also observed for cAMP induced by cholera toxin. Ethanol had no significant effect on the internalization rate of FSHR. In conclusion, ethanol increased FSH-stimulated cAMP production by increasing the activity of adenylyl cyclase, which enhanced FSH actions in rat GCs. Alcohol is an exacerbating factor in several female hormone-related diseases, and the mechanism of ethanol-induced increase in estrogen secretion revealed in this study may be involved in the pathogenesis of these diseases.
Yasminye D. Pettway, Diane C. Saunders, and Marcela Brissova
In commemoration of 100 years since the discovery of glucagon, we review current knowledge about the human α cell. Alpha cells make up 30-40% of human islet endocrine cells and play a major role in regulating whole-body glucose homeostasis, largely through the direct actions of their main secretory product – glucagon – on peripheral organs. Additionally, glucagon and other secretory products of α cells, namely acetylcholine, glutamate, and GLP-1, have been shown to play an indirect role in the modulation of glucose homeostasis through autocrine and paracrine interactions within the islet. Studies of glucagon’s role as a counterregulatory hormone have revealed additional important functions of the α cell, including the regulation of multiple aspects of energy metabolism outside that of glucose. At the molecular level, human α cells are defined by expression of conserved islet-enriched transcription factors and various enriched signature genes, many of which have currently unknown cellular functions. Despite these common threads, notable heterogeneity exists amongst human α cell gene expression and function. Even greater differences are noted at the interspecies level, underscoring the importance of further study of α cell physiology in the human context. Finally, studies on α cell morphology and function in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as other forms of metabolic stress, reveal a key contribution of α cell dysfunction to dysregulated glucose homeostasis in disease pathogenesis, making targeting the α cell an important focus for improving treatment.