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Shona Wood and Andrew Loudon

Adaptation to the environment is essential for survival, in all wild animal species seasonal variation in temperature and food availability needs to be anticipated. This has led to the evolution of deep-rooted physiological cycles, driven by internal clocks, which can track seasonal time with remarkable precision. Evidence has now accumulated that a seasonal change in thyroid hormone (TH) availability within the brain is a crucial element. This is mediated by local control of TH-metabolising enzymes within specialised ependymal cells lining the third ventricle of the hypothalamus. Within these cells, deiodinase type 2 enzyme is activated in response to summer day lengths, converting metabolically inactive thyroxine (T4) to tri-iodothyronine (T3). The availability of TH in the hypothalamus appears to be an important factor in driving the physiological changes that occur with season. Remarkably, in both birds and mammals, the pars tuberalis (PT) of the pituitary gland plays an essential role. A specialised endocrine thyrotroph cell (TSH-expressing) is regulated by the changing day-length signal, leading to activation of TSH by long days. This acts on adjacent TSH-receptors expressed in the hypothalamic ependymal cells, causing local regulation of deiodinase enzymes and conversion of TH to the metabolically active T3. In mammals, the PT is regulated by the nocturnal melatonin signal. Summer-like melatonin signals activate a PT-expressed clock-regulated transcription regulator (EYA3), which in turn drives the expression of the TSHβ sub-unit, leading to a sustained increase in TSH expression. In this manner, a local pituitary timer, driven by melatonin, initiates a cascade of molecular events, led by EYA3, which translates to seasonal changes of neuroendocrine activity in the hypothalamus. There are remarkable parallels between this PT circuit and the photoperiodic timing system used in plants, and while plants use different molecular signals (constans vs EYA3) it appears that widely divergent organisms probably obey a common set of design principles.

Open access

Dawn E W Livingstone, Emma M Di Rollo, Chenjing Yang, Lucy E Codrington, John A Mathews, Madina Kara, Katherine A Hughes, Christopher J Kenyon, Brian R Walker, and Ruth Andrew

Patients with critical illness or hepatic failure exhibit impaired cortisol responses to ACTH, a phenomenon known as ‘relative adrenal insufficiency’. A putative mechanism is that elevated bile acids inhibit inactivation of cortisol in liver by 5α-reductases type 1 and type 2 and 5β-reductase, resulting in compensatory downregulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and adrenocortical atrophy. To test the hypothesis that impaired glucocorticoid clearance can cause relative adrenal insufficiency, we investigated the consequences of 5α-reductase type 1 deficiency in mice. In adrenalectomised male mice with targeted disruption of 5α-reductase type 1, clearance of corticosterone was lower after acute or chronic (eightfold, P<0.05) administration, compared with WT control mice. In intact 5α-reductase-deficient male mice, although resting plasma corticosterone levels were maintained, corticosterone responses were impaired after ACTH administration (26% lower, P<0.05), handling stress (2.5-fold lower, P<0.05) and restraint stress (43% lower, P<0.05) compared with WT mice. mRNA levels of Nr3c1 (glucocorticoid receptor), Crh and Avp in pituitary or hypothalamus were altered, consistent with enhanced negative feedback. These findings confirm that impaired peripheral clearance of glucocorticoids can cause ‘relative adrenal insufficiency’ in mice, an observation with important implications for patients with critical illness or hepatic failure, and for patients receiving 5α-reductase inhibitors for prostatic disease.

Open access

Alvaro Souto Padron, Ruy Andrade Louzada Neto, Thiago Urgal Pantaleão, Maria Carolina de Souza dos Santos, Renata Lopes Araujo, Bruno Moulin de Andrade, Monique da Silva Leandro, João Pedro Saar Werneck de Castro, Andrea Claudia Freitas Ferreira, and Denise Pires de Carvalho

In general, 3,5-diiodothyronine (3,5-T2) increases the resting metabolic rate and oxygen consumption, exerting short-term beneficial metabolic effects on rats subjected to a high-fat diet. Our aim was to evaluate the effects of chronic 3,5-T2 administration on the hypothalamus–pituitary–thyroid axis, body mass gain, adipose tissue mass, and body oxygen consumption in Wistar rats from 3 to 6 months of age. The rats were treated daily with 3,5-T2 (25, 50, or 75 μg/100 g body weight, s.c.) for 90 days between the ages of 3 and 6 months. The administration of 3,5-T2 suppressed thyroid function, reducing not only thyroid iodide uptake but also thyroperoxidase, NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4), and thyroid type 1 iodothyronine deiodinase (D1 (DIO1)) activities and expression levels, whereas the expression of the TSH receptor and dual oxidase (DUOX) were increased. Serum TSH, 3,3′,5-triiodothyronine, and thyroxine were reduced in a 3,5-T2 dose-dependent manner, whereas oxygen consumption increased in these animals, indicating the direct action of 3,5-T2 on this physiological variable. Type 2 deiodinase activity increased in both the hypothalamus and the pituitary, and D1 activities in the liver and kidney were also increased in groups treated with 3,5-T2. Moreover, after 3 months of 3,5-T2 administration, body mass and retroperitoneal fat pad mass were significantly reduced, whereas the heart rate and mass were unchanged. Thus, 3,5-T2 acts as a direct stimulator of energy expenditure and reduces body mass gain; however, TSH suppression may develop secondary to 3,5-T2 administration.

Open access

Xuefeng Yang, Shuang Mei, Haihua Gu, Huailan Guo, Longying Zha, Junwei Cai, Xuefeng Li, Zhenqi Liu, and Wenhong Cao

We have previously shown that insulin plays an important role in the nutrient-induced insulin resistance. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that chronic exposure to excess long-acting insulin (glargine) can cause typical type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in normal mice fed on a chow diet. C57BL/6 mice were treated with glargine once a day for 8 weeks, followed by evaluations of food intake, body weight, blood levels of glucose, insulin, lipids, and cytokines, insulin signaling, histology of pancreas, ectopic fat accumulation, oxidative stress level, and cholesterol content in mitochondria in tissues. Cholesterol content in mitochondria and its association with oxidative stress in cultured hepatocytes and β-cells were also examined. Results show that chronic exposure to glargine caused insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and relative insulin deficiency (T2DM). Treatment with excess glargine led to loss of pancreatic islets, ectopic fat accumulation in liver, oxidative stress in liver and pancreas, and increased cholesterol content in mitochondria of liver and pancreas. Prolonged exposure of cultured primary hepatocytes and HIT-TI5 β-cells to insulin induced oxidative stress in a cholesterol synthesis-dependent manner. Together, our results show that chronic exposure to excess insulin can induce typical T2DM in normal mice fed on a chow diet.

Open access

R Prasad, J C Kowalczyk, E Meimaridou, H L Storr, and L A Metherell

Maintenance of redox balance is essential for normal cellular functions. Any perturbation in this balance due to increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) leads to oxidative stress and may lead to cell dysfunction/damage/death. Mitochondria are responsible for the majority of cellular ROS production secondary to electron leakage as a consequence of respiration. Furthermore, electron leakage by the cytochrome P450 enzymes may render steroidogenic tissues acutely vulnerable to redox imbalance. The adrenal cortex, in particular, is well supplied with both enzymatic (glutathione peroxidases and peroxiredoxins) and non-enzymatic (vitamins A, C and E) antioxidants to cope with this increased production of ROS due to steroidogenesis. Nonetheless oxidative stress is implicated in several potentially lethal adrenal disorders including X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, triple A syndrome and most recently familial glucocorticoid deficiency. The finding of mutations in antioxidant defence genes in the latter two conditions highlights how disturbances in redox homeostasis may have an effect on adrenal steroidogenesis.

Open access

Saadia Basharat, Jennifer A Parker, Kevin G Murphy, Stephen R Bloom, Julia C Buckingham, and Christopher D John

Obesity is a risk factor for sepsis morbidity and mortality, whereas the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis plays a protective role in the body's defence against sepsis. Sepsis induces a profound systemic immune response and cytokines serve as excellent markers for sepsis as they act as mediators of the immune response. Evidence suggests that the adipokine leptin may play a pathogenic role in sepsis. Mouse endotoxaemic models present with elevated leptin levels and exogenously added leptin increased mortality whereas human septic patients have elevated circulating levels of the soluble leptin receptor (Ob-Re). Evidence suggests that leptin can inhibit the regulation of the HPA axis. Thus, leptin may suppress the HPA axis, impairing its protective role in sepsis. We hypothesised that leptin would attenuate the HPA axis response to sepsis. We investigated the direct effects of an i.p. injection of 2 mg/kg leptin on the HPA axis response to intraperitoneally injected 25 μg/kg lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the male Wistar rat. We found that LPS potently activated the HPA axis, as shown by significantly increased plasma stress hormones, ACTH and corticosterone, and increased plasma interleukin 1β (IL1β) levels, 2 h after administration. Pre-treatment with leptin, 2 h before LPS administration, did not influence the HPA axis response to LPS. In turn, LPS did not affect plasma leptin levels. Our findings suggest that leptin does not influence HPA function or IL1β secretion in a rat model of LPS-induced sepsis, and thus that leptin is unlikely to be involved in the acute-phase endocrine response to bacterial infection in rats.

Open access

Craig L Doig, Jamila Bashir, Agnieszka E Zielinska, Mark S Cooper, Paul M Stewart, and Gareth G Lavery

The activity of the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1), which converts inactive cortisone (11-dehydrocorticosterone (11-DHC)) (in mice) into the active glucocorticoid (GC) cortisol (corticosterone in mice), can amplify tissue GC exposure. Elevated TNFα is a common feature in a range of inflammatory disorders and is detrimental to muscle function in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We have previously demonstrated that 11β-HSD1 activity is increased in the mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) by TNFα treatment and suggested that this is an autoregulatory anti-inflammatory mechanism. This upregulation was mediated by the P2 promoter of the Hsd11b1 gene and was dependent on the NF-κB signalling pathway. In this study, we show that in contrast to MSCs, in differentiated C2C12 and primary murine myotubes, TNFα suppresses Hsd11b1 mRNA expression and activity through the utilization of the alternative P1 promoter. As with MSCs, in response to TNFα treatment, NF-κB p65 was translocated to the nucleus. However, ChIP analysis demonstrated that the direct binding was seen at position −218 to −245 bp of the Hsd11b1 gene's P1 promoter but not at the P2 promoter. These studies demonstrate the existence of differential regulation of 11β-HSD1 expression in muscle cells through TNFα/p65 signalling and the P1 promoter, further enhancing our understanding of the role of 11β-HSD1 in the context of inflammatory disease.

Open access

Shiao Y Chan, Laura A Hancox, Azucena Martín-Santos, Laurence S Loubière, Merlin N M Walter, Ana-Maria González, Phillip M Cox, Ann Logan, Christopher J McCabe, Jayne A Franklyn, and Mark D Kilby

The importance of the thyroid hormone (TH) transporter, monocarboxylate transporter 8 (MCT8), to human neurodevelopment is highlighted by findings of severe global neurological impairment in subjects with MCT8 (SLC16A2) mutations. Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), usually due to uteroplacental failure, is associated with milder neurodevelopmental deficits, which have been partly attributed to dysregulated TH action in utero secondary to reduced circulating fetal TH concentrations and decreased cerebral thyroid hormone receptor expression. We postulate that altered MCT8 expression is implicated in this pathophysiology; therefore, in this study, we sought to quantify changes in cortical MCT8 expression with IUGR. First, MCT8 immunohistochemistry was performed on occipital and parietal cerebral cortex sections obtained from appropriately grown for gestational age (AGA) human fetuses between 19 weeks of gestation and term. Secondly, MCT8 immunostaining in the occipital cortex of stillborn IUGR human fetuses at 24–28 weeks of gestation was objectively compared with that in the occipital cortex of gestationally matched AGA fetuses. Fetuses demonstrated widespread MCT8 expression in neurons within the cortical plate and subplate, in the ventricular and subventricular zones, in the epithelium of the choroid plexus and ependyma, and in microvessel wall. When complicated by IUGR, fetuses showed a significant fivefold reduction in the percentage area of cortical plate immunostained for MCT8 compared with AGA fetuses (P<0.05), but there was no significant difference in the proportion of subplate microvessels immunostained. Cortical MCT8 expression was negatively correlated with the severity of IUGR indicated by the brain:liver weight ratios (r 2=0.28; P<0.05) at post-mortem. Our results support the hypothesis that a reduction in MCT8 expression in the IUGR fetal brain could further compromise TH-dependent brain development.

Open access

Keld Fosgerau, Kirsten Raun, Cecilia Nilsson, Kirsten Dahl, and Birgitte S Wulff

Obesity is a major burden to people and to health care systems around the world. The aim of the study was to characterize the effect of a novel selective α-MSH analog on obesity and insulin sensitivity. The subchronic effects of the selective MC4-R peptide agonist MC4-NN1-0182 were investigated in diet-induced obese (DIO) rats and DIO minipigs by assessing the effects on food intake, energy consumption, and body weight. The acute effect of MC4-NN1-0182 on insulin sensitivity was assessed by a euglycemic–hyperinsulinemic clamp study in normal rats. Three weeks of treatment of DIO rats with MC4-NN1-0182 caused a decrease in food intake and a significant decrease in body weight 7±1%, P<0.05 compared with 3±1% increase with the vehicle control. In DIO minipigs, 8 weeks of treatment with MC4-NN1-0182 resulted in a body weight loss of 13.3±2.5 kg (13±3%), whereas the vehicle control group had gained 3.7±1.4 kg (4±1%). Finally, clamp studies in normal rats showed that acute treatment with MC4-NN1-0182 caused a significant increase in glucose disposal (Rd) compared with vehicle control (Rd, mg/kg per min, 17.0±0.7 vs 13.9±0.6, P<0.01). We demonstrate that treatment of DIO rats or minipigs with a selective MC4-R peptide agonist causes weight loss. Moreover, we have demonstrated weight-independent effects on insulin sensitivity. Our observations identify MC4 agonism as a viable target for the treatment of obesity and insulin resistance.

Open access

A Tsuchiya, T Kanno, and T Nishizaki

Insulin stimulated translocation of the glucose transporter GLUT4 from the cytosol to the plasma membrane in a concentration (1 nM–1 μM)-dependent manner and increased glucose uptake in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Insulin-induced GLUT4 translocation to the cell surface was prevented by the phosphoinositide 3 kinase (PI3K) inhibitor wortmannin, the 3-phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1 (PDK1) inhibitor BX912 or the Akt1/2 inhibitor MK2206, and by knocking-down PI3K, PDK1 or Akt1/2. Insulin increased phosphorylation of Akt1/2 at Thr308/309 and Ser473/474, to activate Akt1/2, in the adipocytes. Insulin-induced phosphorylation of Akt1/2 was suppressed by wortmannin and knocking-down PI3K, while no significant inhibition of the phosphorylation was obtained with BX912 or knocking-down PDK1. In the cell-free Akt assay, PI3K phosphorylated Akt1 both at Thr308 and Ser473 and Akt2 at Ser474 alone. In contrast, PDK1 phosphorylates Akt1 at Thr308 and Akt2 at Thr309. The results of this study indicate that PI3K activates Akt1, independently of PDK1, and Akt2 by cooperating with PDK1 in the insulin signal transduction pathway linked to GLUT4 translocation.