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Open access

Peter Kolkhof and Lars Bärfacker

The cDNA of the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) was cloned 30 years ago, in 1987. At that time, spirolactone, the first generation of synthetic steroid-based MR antagonists (MRAs), which was identified in preclinical in vivo models, had already been in clinical use for 30 years. Subsequent decades of research and development by Searle & Co., Ciba-Geigy, Roussel Uclaf and Schering AG toward identifying a second generation of much more specific steroidal MRAs were all based on the initial 17-spirolactone construct. The salient example is eplerenone, first described in 1987, coincidentally with the cloning of MR cDNA. Its launch on the market in 2003 paralleled intensive drug discovery programs for a new generation of non-steroidal MRAs. Now, 30 years after the cDNA cloning of MR and 60 years of clinical use of steroidal MRAs, novel non-steroidal MRAs such as apararenone, esaxerenone and finerenone are in late-stage clinical trials in patients with heart failure, chronic kidney disease (CKD), hypertension and liver disease. Finerenone has already been studied in over 2000 patients with heart failure plus chronic kidney disease and/or diabetes, and in patients with diabetic kidney disease, in five phase II clinical trials. Here, we reflect on the history of the various generations of MRAs and review characteristics of the most important steroidal and non-steroidal MRAs.

Open access

Esther Nuñez-Durán, Belén Chanclón, Silva Sütt, Joana Real, Hanns-Ulrich Marschall, Ingrid Wernstedt Asterholm, Emmelie Cansby, and Margit Mahlapuu

Characterising the molecular networks that negatively regulate pancreatic β-cell function is essential for understanding the underlying pathogenesis and developing new treatment strategies for type 2 diabetes. We recently identified serine/threonine protein kinase 25 (STK25) as a critical regulator of ectopic fat storage, meta-inflammation, and fibrosis in liver and skeletal muscle. Here, we assessed the role of STK25 in control of progression of non-alcoholic fatty pancreas disease in the context of chronic exposure to dietary lipids in mice. We found that overexpression of STK25 in high-fat-fed transgenic mice aggravated diet-induced lipid storage in the pancreas compared with that of wild-type controls, which was accompanied by exacerbated pancreatic inflammatory cell infiltration, stellate cell activation, fibrosis and apoptosis. Pancreas of Stk25 transgenic mice also displayed a marked decrease in islet β/α-cell ratio and alteration in the islet architecture with an increased presence of α-cells within the islet core, whereas islet size remained similar between genotypes. After a continued challenge with a high-fat diet, lower levels of fasting plasma insulin and C-peptide, and higher levels of plasma leptin, were detected in Stk25 transgenic vs wild-type mice. Furthermore, the glucose-stimulated insulin secretion was impaired in high-fat-fed Stk25 transgenic mice during glucose tolerance test, in spite of higher net change in blood glucose concentrations compared with wild-type controls, suggesting islet β-cell dysfunction. In summary, this study unravels a role for STK25 in determining the susceptibility to diet-induced non-alcoholic fatty pancreas disease in mice in connection to obesity. Our findings highlight STK25 as a potential drug target for metabolic disease.

Open access

Katie J Mylonas, Neil A Turner, Sumia A Bageghni, Christopher J Kenyon, Christopher I White, Kieran McGregor, Robert A Kimmitt, Richard Sulston, Valerie Kelly, Brian R Walker, Karen E Porter, Karen E Chapman, and Gillian A Gray

We have previously demonstrated that neutrophil recruitment to the heart following myocardial infarction (MI) is enhanced in mice lacking 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) that regenerates active glucocorticoid within cells from intrinsically inert metabolites. The present study aimed to identify the mechanism of regulation. In a mouse model of MI, neutrophil mobilization to blood and recruitment to the heart were higher in 11β-HSD1-deficient (Hsd11b1 / ) relative to wild-type (WT) mice, despite similar initial injury and circulating glucocorticoid. In bone marrow chimeric mice, neutrophil mobilization was increased when 11β-HSD1 was absent from host cells, but not when absent from donor bone marrow-derived cells. Consistent with a role for 11β-HSD1 in ‘host’ myocardium, gene expression of a subset of neutrophil chemoattractants, including the chemokines Cxcl2 and Cxcl5, was selectively increased in the myocardium of Hsd11b1 / mice relative to WT. SM22α-Cre directed disruption of Hsd11b1 in smooth muscle and cardiomyocytes had no effect on neutrophil recruitment. Expression of Cxcl2 and Cxcl5 was elevated in fibroblast fractions isolated from hearts of Hsd11b1 / mice post MI and provision of either corticosterone or of the 11β-HSD1 substrate, 11-dehydrocorticosterone, to cultured murine cardiac fibroblasts suppressed IL-1α-induced expression of Cxcl2 and Cxcl5. These data identify suppression of CXCL2 and CXCL5 chemoattractant expression by 11β-HSD1 as a novel mechanism with potential for regulation of neutrophil recruitment to the injured myocardium, and cardiac fibroblasts as a key site for intracellular glucocorticoid regeneration during acute inflammation following myocardial injury.

Open access

Maayan Vatarescu, Sapir Bechor, Yulia Haim, Tal Pecht, Tanya Tarnovscki, Noa Slutsky, Ori Nov, Hagit Shapiro, Avishai Shemesh, Angel Porgador, Nava Bashan, and Assaf Rudich

Adipose tissue inflammation and dysfunction are considered central in the pathogenesis of obesity-related dysmetabolism, but their role in the rapid metabolic recovery upon obesity reversal is less well defined. We hypothesized that changes in adipose tissue endocrine and paracrine mechanisms may support the rapid improvement of obesity-induced impairment in cellular lipid handling. C57Bl-6J mice were fed ad libitum either normal chow (NC) or high-fat diet (HFF) for 10 weeks. A dietary obesity reversal group was fed HFF for 8 weeks and then switched to NC for 2 weeks (HFF→NC). Whole-body glucose homeostasis rapidly nearly normalized in the HFF→NC mice (fasting glucose and insulin fully normalized, glucose and insulin tolerance tests reversed 82% to the NC group levels). During 2 weeks of the dietary reversal, the liver was significantly cleared from ectopic fat, and functionally, glucose production from pyruvate, alanine or fructose was normalized. In contrast, adipose tissue inflammation (macrophage infiltration and polarization) largely remained as in HFF, though obesity-induced adipose tissue macrophage lipid accumulation decreased by ~50%, and adipose tissue MAP kinase hyperactivation was reversed. Ex vivo, mild changes in adipose tissue adipocytokine secretion profile were noted. These corresponded to partial or full reversal of the excess cellular lipid droplet accumulation induced by HFF adipose tissue conditioned media in hepatoma or macrophage cells, respectively. We propose that early after initiating reversal of nutritional obesity, rapid metabolic normalization largely precedes resolution of adipose tissue inflammation. Nevertheless, we demonstrate a hitherto unrecognized contribution of adipose tissue to the rapid improvement in lipid handling by the liver and by macrophages.

Open access

J Fahrenkrug, B Georg, J Hannibal, and H L Jørgensen

The endocrine body rhythms including the hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis seem to be regulated by the circadian timing system, and daily rhythmicity of circulating thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is well established. The circadian rhythms are generated by endogenous clocks in the central brain oscillator located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) as well as multiple peripheral clocks, but information on the existence and function of a thyroid clock is limited. The molecular machinery in all clock cells is composed of a number of clock genes and their gene products are connected by autoregulatory feedback loops. Here, we provide evidence for a thyroid clock in the rat by demonstrating 24-h antiphase oscillations for the mRNA of the canonical clock genes Per1 and Bmal1, which was unaffected by hypophysectomy. By immunostaining, we supported the existence of a core oscillator in the individual thyroid cells by demonstrating a daily cytoplasmatic–nuclear shuttling of PER1 protein. In normal rats, we found a significant daily rhythmicity in the circulating thyroid hormones preceded by a peak in TSH. In hypophysectomised rats, although the thyroid clock was not affected, the oscillations in circulating thyroid hormones were abolished and the levels were markedly lowered. No daily oscillations in the expression of TSH receptor mRNA were observed in neither control rats nor hypophysectomised rats. Our findings indicate that the daily rhythm of thyroid hormone secretion is governed by SCN signalling via the rhythmic TSH secretion rather than by the local thyroid clock, which was still ticking after hypophysectomy.

Open access

David E Maridas, Victoria E DeMambro, Phuong T Le, Kenichi Nagano, Roland Baron, Subburaman Mohan, and Clifford J Rosen

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and its binding proteins are critical mediators of skeletal growth. Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 4 (IGFBP-4) is highly expressed in osteoblasts and inhibits IGF-1 actions in vitro. Yet, in vivo studies suggest that it could potentiate IGF-1 and IGF-2 actions. In this study, we hypothesized that IGFBP-4 might potentiate the actions of IGF-1 on the skeleton. To test this, we comprehensively studied 8- and 16-week-old Igfbp4−/− mice. Both male and female adult Igfbp4−/− mice had marked growth retardation with reductions in body weight, body and femur lengths, fat proportion and lean mass at 8 and 16 weeks. Marked reductions in aBMD and aBMC were observed in 16-week-old Igfbp4−/− females, but not in males. Femoral trabecular BV/TV and thickness, cortical fraction and thickness in 16-week-old Igfbp4−/− females were significantly reduced. However, surprisingly, males had significantly more trabeculae with higher connectivity density than controls. Concordantly, histomorphometry revealed higher bone resorption and lower bone formation in Igfbp4−/− females. In contrast, Igfbp4−/− males had lower mineralized surface/bone surface. Femoral expression of Sost and circulating levels of sclerostin were reduced but only in Igfbp4−/− males. Bone marrow stromal cultures from mutants showed increased osteogenesis, whereas osteoclastogenesis was markedly increased in cells from Igfbp4−/− females but decreased in males. In sum, our results indicate that loss of Igfbp4 affects mesenchymal stromal cell differentiation, regulates osteoclastogenesis and influences both skeletal development and adult bone maintenance. Thus, IGFBP-4 modulates the skeleton in a gender-specific manner, acting as both a cell autonomous and cell non-autonomous factor.

Open access

Rachel V Richardson, Emma J Batchen, Adrian J W Thomson, Rowan Darroch, Xinlu Pan, Eva A Rog-Zielinska, Wiktoria Wyrzykowska, Kathleen Scullion, Emad A S Al-Dujaili, Mary E Diaz, Carmel M Moran, Christopher J Kenyon, Gillian A Gray, and Karen E Chapman

Corticosteroids directly affect the heart and vasculature and are implicated in the pathogenesis of heart failure. Attention is focussed upon the role of the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in mediating pro-fibrotic and other adverse effects of corticosteroids upon the heart. In contrast, the role of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in the heart and vasculature is less well understood. We addressed this in mice with cardiomyocyte and vascular smooth muscle deletion of GR (SMGRKO mice). Survival of SMGRKO mice to weaning was reduced compared with that of littermate controls. Doppler measurements of blood flow across the mitral valve showed an elongated isovolumetric contraction time in surviving adult SMGRKO mice, indicating impairment of the initial left ventricular contractile phase. Although heart weight was elevated in both genders, only male SMGRKO mice showed evidence of pathological cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, associated with increased myosin heavy chain-β expression. Left ventricular fibrosis, evident in both genders, was associated with elevated levels of mRNA encoding MR as well as proteins involved in cardiac remodelling and fibrosis. However, MR antagonism with spironolactone from birth only modestly attenuated the increase in pro-fibrotic gene expression in SMGRKO mice, suggesting that elevated MR signalling is not the primary driver of cardiac fibrosis in SMGRKO mice, and cardiac fibrosis can be dissociated from MR activation. Thus, GR contributes to systolic function and restrains normal cardiac growth, the latter through gender-specific mechanisms. Our findings suggest the GR:MR balance is critical in corticosteroid signalling in specific cardiac cell types.

Open access

Jethro S Johnson, Monica N Opiyo, Marian Thomson, Karim Gharbi, Jonathan R Seckl, Andreas Heger, and Karen E Chapman

The enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11β-HSD) interconverts active glucocorticoids and their intrinsically inert 11-keto forms. The type 1 isozyme, 11β-HSD1, predominantly reactivates glucocorticoids in vivo and can also metabolise bile acids. 11β-HSD1-deficient mice show altered inflammatory responses and are protected against the adverse metabolic effects of a high-fat diet. However, the impact of 11β-HSD1 on the composition of the gut microbiome has not previously been investigated. We used high-throughput 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing to characterise the gut microbiome of 11β-HSD1-deficient and C57Bl/6 control mice, fed either a standard chow diet or a cholesterol- and fat-enriched ‘Western’ diet. 11β-HSD1 deficiency significantly altered the composition of the gut microbiome, and did so in a diet-specific manner. On a Western diet, 11β-HSD1 deficiency increased the relative abundance of the family Bacteroidaceae, and on a chow diet, it altered relative abundance of the family Prevotellaceae. Our results demonstrate that (i) genetic effects on host–microbiome interactions can depend upon diet and (ii) that alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome may contribute to the aspects of the metabolic and/or inflammatory phenotype observed with 11β-HSD1 deficiency.

Open access

Valentina Pampanini, Daniela Germani, Antonella Puglianiello, Jan-Bernd Stukenborg, Ahmed Reda, Iuliia Savchuk, Kristín Rós Kjartansdóttir, Stefano Cianfarani, and Olle Söder

Prenatal events such as intrauterine growth restriction can affect gonadal development of the offspring and have an impact on reproductive health. To investigate the effects of intrauterine growth restriction induced by uterine artery ligation on the postnatal rat testis. Pregnant rats underwent uterine artery ligation at day 19 of gestation. Offspring were killed at 5, 20 and 40 days post-partum (dpp). At killing, one gonad was snap-frozen in liquid nitrogen and processed for RNA and steroid extraction. The other gonad was formalin-fixed for histology. Gene expression was analyzed by TaqMan Low-Density Array. Intratesticular testosterone, estradiol and serum gonadotrophins were measured. Thirty genes were dysregulated in intrauterine growth-restricted rats compared to controls, among which markers of Sertoli cell and Leydig cell function, cell metabolism and growth factors. Testis weights were significantly reduced at 5 and 20 dpp in intrauterine growth-restricted rats and caught-up by 40 dpp. Accordingly, Sertoli cell number was significantly lower in 5 dpp intrauterine growth-restricted rats. At 20 dpp, intratesticular testosterone was significantly increased in intrauterine growth-restricted rats, whereas serum gonadotrophins were unchanged. IUGR altered the gene expression in the rat testes up to peripubertal age and reduced testis size and Sertoli cell number in neonatal age. Multiple mechanisms encompassing genetic changes and steroid production by the testis may be involved in the catch-up growth phase that restored testis size by 40 dpp. Permanent consequences on organ function and gamete integrity cannot be excluded and deserve further investigations.

Open access

Noelia Martínez-Sánchez, José M Moreno-Navarrete, Cristina Contreras, Eva Rial-Pensado, Johan Fernø, Rubén Nogueiras, Carlos Diéguez, José-Manuel Fernández-Real, and Miguel López

The canonical view about the effect of thyroid hormones (THs) on thermogenesis assumes that the hypothalamus acts merely as a modulator of the sympathetic outflow on brown adipose tissue (BAT). Recent data have challenged that vision by demonstrating that THs act on the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH) to inhibit AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which regulates the thermogenic program in BAT, leading to increased thermogenesis and weight loss. Current data have shown that in addition to activation of brown fat, the browning of white adipose tissue (WAT) might also be an important thermogenic mechanism. However, the possible central effects of THs on the browning of white fat remain unclear. Here, we show that 3,3′,5,5′ tetraiodothyroxyne (T4)-induced hyperthyroidism promotes a marked browning of WAT. Of note, central or VMH-specific administration of 3,3′,5-triiodothyronine (T3) recapitulates that effect. The specific genetic activation of hypothalamic AMPK in the VMH reversed the central effect of T3 on browning. Finally, we also showed that the expression of browning genes in human WAT correlates with serum T4. Overall, these data indicate that THs induce browning of WAT and that this mechanism is mediated via the central effects of THs on energy balance.