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Open access

Ekaterine Tskitishvili, Christel Pequeux, Carine Munaut, Renaud Viellevoye, Michelle Nisolle, Agnes Noël, and Jean-Michel Foidart

Estetrol (E4) has strong antioxidative, neurogenic and angiogenic effects in neural system resulting in the attenuation of neonatal hypoxic–ischemic encephalopathy. We aimed to define the role of estrogen receptors in E4-dependent actions in neuronal cell cultures and prove the promyelinating effect of E4. In vitro the antioxidative and cell survival/proliferating effects of E4 on H2O2-induced oxidative stress in primary hippocampal cell cultures were studied using different combinations of specific inhibitors for ERα (MPP dihydrochloride), ERβ (PHTTP), GPR30 (G15) and palmytoilation (2-BR). LDH activity and cell survival assays were performed. In vivo the promyelinating role of different concentrations of E4 (1 mg/kg/day, 5 mg/kg/day, 10 mg/kg/day, 50 mg/kg/day) was investigated using the hypoxic–ischemic brain damage model in the 7-day-old immature rats before/after the induction of hypoxic–ischemic insult. Myelin basic protein (MBP) immunostaining was performed on brain coronal sections. Our results show that LDH activity is significantly upregulated in cell cultures where the E4’s effect was completely blocked by concomitant treatment either with ERα and ERβ inhibitors (MPP and PHTPP, respectively), or ERα and ERβ inhibitors combined with 2-BR. Cell survival is significantly downregulated in cell cultures where the effect of E4 was blocked by ERβ inhibitor (PHTTP) alone. The blockage of GRP30 receptor did affect neither LDH activity nor cell survival. MBP immunostaining is significantly upregulated in E4-pretreated groups at a concentration of 5 mg/kg/day and 50 mg/kg/day E4, whereas the MBP-positive area OD ratio is significantly increased in all the E4-treated groups. E4’s antioxidative actions mostly depend on ERα and ERβ, whereas neurogenesis and possibly promyelinating activities might be realized through ERβ.

Open access

Dawn E W Livingstone, Emma M Di Rollo, Tracy C-S Mak, Karen Sooy, Brian R Walker, and Ruth Andrew

5α-Reductases irreversibly catalyse A-ring reduction of pregnene steroids, including glucocorticoids and androgens. Genetic disruption of 5α-reductase 1 in male mice impairs glucocorticoid clearance and predisposes to glucose intolerance and hepatic steatosis upon metabolic challenge. However, it is unclear whether this is driven by changes in androgen and/or glucocorticoid action. Female mice with transgenic disruption of 5α-reductase 1 (5αR1-KO) were studied, representing a ‘low androgen’ state. Glucocorticoid clearance and stress responses were studied in mice aged 6 months. Metabolism was assessed in mice on normal chow (aged 6 and 12 m) and also in a separate cohort following 1-month high-fat diet (aged 3 m). Female 5αR1-KO mice had adrenal suppression (44% lower AUC corticosterone after stress), and upon corticosterone infusion, accumulated hepatic glucocorticoids (~27% increased corticosterone). Female 5αR1-KO mice aged 6 m fed normal chow demonstrated insulin resistance (~35% increased area under curve (AUC) for insulin upon glucose tolerance testing) and hepatic steatosis (~33% increased hepatic triglycerides) compared with controls. This progressed to obesity (~12% increased body weight) and sustained insulin resistance (~38% increased AUC insulin) by age 12 m. Hepatic transcript profiles supported impaired lipid β-oxidation and increased triglyceride storage. Female 5αR1-KO mice were also predisposed to develop high-fat diet-induced insulin resistance. Exaggerated predisposition to metabolic disorders in female mice, compared with that seen in male mice, after disruption of 5αR1 suggests phenotypic changes may be underpinned by altered metabolism of glucocorticoids rather than androgens.

Open access

David M Golding, Daniel J Rees, Jennifer R Davies, Dinko Relkovic, Hannah V Furby, Irina A Guschina, Anna L Hopkins, Jeffrey S Davies, James L Resnick, Anthony R Isles, and Timothy Wells

Prader–Willi syndrome (PWS), a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by loss of paternal gene expression from 15q11–q13, is characterised by growth retardation, hyperphagia and obesity. However, as single gene mutation mouse models for this condition display an incomplete spectrum of the PWS phenotype, we have characterised the metabolic impairment in a mouse model for ‘full’ PWS, in which deletion of the imprinting centre (IC) abolishes paternal gene expression from the entire PWS cluster. We show that PWS-ICdel mice displayed postnatal growth retardation, with reduced body weight, hyperghrelinaemia and marked abdominal leanness; proportionate retroperitoneal, epididymal/omental and inguinal white adipose tissue (WAT) weights being reduced by 82%, 84% and 67%, respectively. PWS-ICdel mice also displayed a 48% reduction in proportionate interscapular brown adipose tissue (isBAT) weight with significant ‘beiging’ of abdominal WAT, and a 2°C increase in interscapular surface body temperature. Maintenance of PWS-ICdel mice under thermoneutral conditions (30°C) suppressed the thermogenic activity in PWS-ICdel males, but failed to elevate the abdominal WAT weight, possibly due to a normalisation of caloric intake. Interestingly, PWS-ICdel mice also showed exaggerated food hoarding behaviour with standard and high-fat diets, but despite becoming hyperphagic when switched to a high-fat diet, PWS-ICdel mice failed to gain weight. This evidence indicates that, unlike humans with PWS, loss of paternal gene expression from the PWS cluster in mice results in abdominal leanness. Although reduced subcutaneous insulation may lead to exaggerated heat loss and thermogenesis, abdominal leanness is likely to arise from a reduced lipid storage capacity rather than increased energy utilisation in BAT.

Open access

Denys deCatanzaro and Tyler Pollock

Estradiol-17β (E2) plays critical roles in female maturation, sexual receptivity, ovulation and fertility. In many mammals, contact with males can similarly affect these female parameters, whereas male excretions contain significant quantities of E2. We administered radiolabeled estradiol ([3H]E2) to male mice in doses representing a small fraction of their endogenous E2. These males were paired with sexually receptive females, and radioactivity was traced into the females’ systems. In Experiment 1, males were given [3H]E2 at 24 and 1 h before mating. Male-to-female [3H]E2 transfer intensified with increasing numbers of intromissions and spiked in the uterus after insemination. In Experiment 2, sexually experienced young males received [3H]E2 at 72 and 24 h before mating, and all mated to ejaculation. The copulatory plug deposited in the female reproductive tract contained substantial levels of radioactivity. The uteri, other tissues and blood serum of females displayed radioactivity indicative of E2 transfer. In Experiment 3, radioactivity was observed 3 and 18 h after insemination in the females’ uteri and other tissues, including parts of the brain. In Experiment 4, we observed substantial levels of radioactivity in semen as well as the copulatory plugs retrieved from the females after mating. Transferred E2 could directly affect abundant estrogen receptors in the female reproductive tract without potential metabolism by the liver. Sexually transferred E2 may facilitate uterine preparation for blastocyst implantation. These data converge with several lines of evidence indicating that male-sourced E2 can transfer to proximate females in bioactive form, contributing to various mammalian pheromonal effects.

Open access

Bernard Freudenthal, John Logan, Sanger Institute Mouse Pipelines, Peter I Croucher, Graham R Williams, and J H Duncan Bassett

The genetic determinants of osteoporosis remain poorly understood, and there is a large unmet need for new treatments in our ageing society. Thus, new approaches for gene discovery in skeletal disease are required to complement the current genome-wide association studies in human populations. The International Knockout Mouse Consortium (IKMC) and the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium (IMPC) provide such an opportunity. The IKMC generates knockout mice representing each of the known protein-coding genes in C57BL/6 mice and, as part of the IMPC initiative, the Origins of Bone and Cartilage Disease project identifies mutants with significant outlier skeletal phenotypes. This initiative will add value to data from large human cohorts and provide a new understanding of bone and cartilage pathophysiology, ultimately leading to the identification of novel drug targets for the treatment of skeletal disease.

Open access

Sushil K Mahata, Hong Zheng, Sumana Mahata, Xuefei Liu, and Kaushik P Patel

One of the key mechanisms involved in sympathoexcitation in chronic heart failure (HF) is the activation of the adrenal glands. Impact of the elevated catecholamines on the hemodynamic parameters has been previously demonstrated. However, studies linking the structural effects of such overactivation with secretory performance and cell metabolism in the adrenomedullary chromaffin cells in vivo have not been previously reported. In this study, HF was induced in male Sprague-Dawley rats by ligation of the left coronary artery. Five weeks after surgery, cardiac function was assessed by ventricular hemodynamics. HF rats showed increased adrenal weight and adrenal catecholamine levels (norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine) compared with sham-operated rats. Rats with HF demonstrated increased small synaptic and dense core vesicle in splanchnic–adrenal synapses indicating trans-synaptic activation of catecholamine biosynthetic enzymes, increased endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi lumen width to meet the demand of increased catecholamine synthesis and release, and more mitochondria with dilated cristae and glycogen to accommodate for the increased energy demand for the increased biogenesis and exocytosis of catecholamines from the adrenal medulla. These findings suggest that increased trans-synaptic activation of the chromaffin cells within the adrenal medulla may lead to increased catecholamines in the circulation which in turn contributes to the enhanced neurohumoral drive, providing a unique mechanistic insight for enhanced catecholamine levels in plasma commonly observed in chronic HF condition.

Open access

K S Wilson, C S Tucker, E A S Al-Dujaili, M C Holmes, P W F Hadoke, C J Kenyon, and M A Denvir

Glucocorticoids (GCs) in utero influence embryonic development with consequent programmed effects on adult physiology and pathophysiology and altered susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. However, in viviparous species, studies of these processes are compromised by secondary maternal influences. The zebrafish, being fertilised externally, avoids this problem and has been used here to investigate the effects of transient alterations in GC activity during early development. Embryonic fish were treated either with dexamethasone (a synthetic GC), an antisense GC receptor (GR) morpholino (GR Mo), or hypoxia for the first 120h post fertilisation (hpf); responses were measured during embryonic treatment or later, post treatment, in adults. All treatments reduced cortisol levels in embryonic fish to similar levels. However, morpholino- and hypoxia-treated embryos showed delayed physical development (slower hatching and straightening of head–trunk angle, shorter body length), less locomotor activity, reduced tactile responses and anxiogenic activity. In contrast, dexamethasone-treated embryos showed advanced development and thigmotaxis but no change in locomotor activity or tactile responses. Gene expression changes were consistent with increased (dexamethasone) and decreased (hypoxia, GR Mo) GC activity. In adults, stressed cortisol values were increased with dexamethasone and decreased by GR Mo and hypoxia pre-treatments. Other responses were similarly differentially affected. In three separate tests of behaviour, dexamethasone-programmed fish appeared ‘bolder’ than matched controls, whereas Mo and hypoxia pre-treated fish were unaffected or more reserved. Similarly, the dexamethasone group but not the Mo or hypoxia groups were heavier, longer and had a greater girth than controls. Hyperglycaemia and expression of GC responsive gene (pepck) were also increased in the dexamethasone group. We conclude that GC activity controls many aspects of early-life growth and development in the zebrafish and that, like other species, manipulating GC status pharmacologically, physiologically or genetically in early life leads to programmable metabolic and behavioural traits in adulthood.

Open access

T V Novoselova, R Larder, D Rimmington, C Lelliott, E H Wynn, R J Gorrigan, P H Tate, L Guasti, The Sanger Mouse Genetics Project, S O’Rahilly, A J L Clark, D W Logan, A P Coll, and L F Chan

Melanocortin receptor accessory protein 2 (MRAP2) is a transmembrane accessory protein predominantly expressed in the brain. Both global and brain-specific deletion of Mrap2 in mice results in severe obesity. Loss-of-function MRAP2 mutations have also been associated with obesity in humans. Although MRAP2 has been shown to interact with MC4R, a G protein-coupled receptor with an established role in energy homeostasis, appetite regulation and lipid metabolism, the mechanisms through which loss of MRAP2 causes obesity remains uncertain. In this study, we used two independently derived lines of Mrap2 deficient mice (Mrap2 tm1a/tm1a) to further study the role of Mrap2 in the regulation of energy balance and peripheral lipid metabolism. Mrap2 tm1a/tm1a mice have a significant increase in body weight, with increased fat and lean mass, but without detectable changes in food intake or energy expenditure. Transcriptomic analysis showed significantly decreased expression of Sim1, Trh, Oxt and Crh within the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus of Mrap2 tm1a/tm1a mice. Circulating levels of both high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein were significantly increased in Mrap2 deficient mice. Taken together, these data corroborate the role of MRAP2 in metabolic regulation and indicate that, at least in part, this may be due to defective central melanocortin signalling.

Open access

Geoffrey L Hammond

Biologically active steroids are transported in the blood by albumin, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), and corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG). These plasma proteins also regulate the non-protein-bound or ‘free’ fractions of circulating steroid hormones that are considered to be biologically active; as such, they can be viewed as the ‘primary gatekeepers of steroid action’. Albumin binds steroids with limited specificity and low affinity, but its high concentration in blood buffers major fluctuations in steroid concentrations and their free fractions. By contrast, SHBG and CBG play much more dynamic roles in controlling steroid access to target tissues and cells. They bind steroids with high (~nM) affinity and specificity, with SHBG binding androgens and estrogens and CBG binding glucocorticoids and progesterone. Both are glycoproteins that are structurally unrelated, and they function in different ways that extend beyond their transportation or buffering functions in the blood. Plasma SHBG and CBG production by the liver varies during development and different physiological or pathophysiological conditions, and abnormalities in the plasma levels of SHBG and CBG or their abilities to bind steroids are associated with a variety of pathologies. Understanding how the unique structures of SHBG and CBG determine their specialized functions, how changes in their plasma levels are controlled, and how they function outside the blood circulation provides insight into how they control the freedom of steroids to act in health and disease.

Open access

Ya-Li Yang, Li-Rong Ren, Li-Feng Sun, Chen Huang, Tian-Xia Xiao, Bao-Bei Wang, Jie Chen, Brian A Zabel, Peigen Ren, and Jian V Zhang

Chemerin, a chemokine, plays important roles in immune responses, inflammation, adipogenesis, and carbohydrate metabolism. Our recent research has shown that chemerin has an inhibitory effect on hormone secretion from the testis and ovary. However, whether G protein-coupled receptor 1 (GPR1), the active receptor for chemerin, regulates steroidogenesis and luteolysis in the corpus luteum is still unknown. In this study, we established a pregnant mare serum gonadotropin-human chorionic gonadotropin (PMSG-hCG) superovulation model, a prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) luteolysis model, and follicle and corpus luteum culture models to analyze the role of chemerin signaling through GPR1 in the synthesis and secretion of gonadal hormones during follicular/luteal development and luteolysis. Our results, for the first time, show that chemerin and GPR1 are both differentially expressed in the ovary over the course of the estrous cycle, with highest levels in estrus and metestrus. GPR1 has been localized to granulosa cells, cumulus cells, and the corpus luteum by immunohistochemistry (IHC). In vitro, we found that chemerin suppresses hCG-induced progesterone production in cultured follicle and corpus luteum and that this effect is attenuated significantly by anti-GPR1 MAB treatment. Furthermore, when the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway was blocked, the attenuating effect of GPR1 MAB was abrogated. Interestingly, PGF2α induces luteolysis through activation of caspase-3, leading to a reduction in progesterone secretion. Treatment with GPR1 MAB blocked the PGF2α effect on caspase-3 expression and progesterone secretion. This study indicates that chemerin/GPR1 signaling directly or indirectly regulates progesterone synthesis and secretion during the processes of follicular development, corpus luteum formation, and PGF2α-induced luteolysis.