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Wang-Yang Xu, Yan Shen, Houbao Zhu, Junhui Gao, Chen Zhang, Lingyun Tang, Shun-Yuan Lu, Chun-Ling Shen, Hong-Xin Zhang, Ziwei Li, Peng Meng, Ying-Han Wan, Jian Fei and Zhu-Gang Wang

Obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) are both complicated endocrine disorders resulting from an interaction between multiple predisposing genes and environmental triggers, while diet and exercise have key influence on metabolic disorders. Previous reports demonstrated that 2-aminoadipic acid (2-AAA), an intermediate metabolite of lysine metabolism, could modulate insulin secretion and predict T2D, suggesting the role of 2-AAA in glycolipid metabolism. Here, we showed that treatment of diet-induced obesity (DIO) mice with 2-AAA significantly reduced body weight, decreased fat accumulation and lowered fasting glucose. Furthermore, Dhtkd1−/− mice, in which the substrate of DHTKD1 2-AAA increased to a significant high level, were resistant to DIO and obesity-related insulin resistance. Further study showed that 2-AAA induced higher energy expenditure due to increased adipocyte thermogenesis via upregulating PGC1α and UCP1 mediated by β3AR activation, and stimulated lipolysis depending on enhanced expression of hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) through activating β3AR signaling. Moreover, 2-AAA could alleviate the diabetic symptoms of db/db mice. Our data showed that 2-AAA played an important role in regulating glycolipid metabolism independent of diet and exercise, implying that improving the level of 2-AAA in vivo could be developed as a strategy in the treatment of obesity or diabetes.

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Hong Ma, Jin Yuan, Jinyu Ma, Jie Ding, Weiwei Lin, Xinlei Wang, Mingliang Zhang, Yi Sun, Runze Wu, Chun Liu, Cheng Sun and Yunjuan Gu

Bone morphogenetic protein 7 (BMP7), a member of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family, plays pivotal roles in energy expenditure. However, whether and how BMP7 regulates hepatic insulin sensitivity is still poorly understood. Here, we show that hepatic BMP7 expression is reduced in high-fat diet (HFD)-induced diabetic mice and palmitate (PA)-induced insulin-resistant HepG2 and AML12 cells. BMP7 improves insulin signaling pathway in insulin resistant hepatocytes. On the contrary, knockdown of BMP7 further impairs insulin signal transduction in PA-treated cells. Increased expression of BMP7 by adenovirus expressing BMP7 improves hyperglycemia, insulin sensitivity and insulin signal transduction. Furthermore, BMP7 inhibits mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in both the liver of obese mice and PA-treated cells. In addition, inhibition of MAPKs recapitulates the effects of BMP7 on insulin signal transduction in cultured hepatocytes treated with PA. Activation of p38 MAPK abolishes the BMP7-mediated upregulation of insulin signal transduction both in vitro and in vivo. Together, our results show that hepatic BMP7 has a novel function in regulating insulin sensitivity through inhibition of MAPKs, thus providing new insights into treating insulin resistance-related disorders such as type 2 diabetes.

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Chunxia Yu, Sujuan Liu, Liqin Chen, Jun Shen, Yanmei Niu, Tianyi Wang, Wanqi Zhang and Li Fu

The composition and activity of the gut microbiota depend on the host genome, nutrition, and lifestyle. Exercise and sodium butyrate (NaB) exert metabolic benefits in both mice and humans. However, the underlying mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. This study aimed to examine the effect of exercise training and dietary supplementation of butyrate on the composition of gut microbiota and whether the altered gut microbiota can stimulate differential production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which promote the expression of SESN2 and CRTC2 to improve metabolic health and protect against obesity. C57BL/6J mice were used to study the effect of exercise and high-fat diet (HFD) with or without NaB on gut microbiota. Bacterial communities were assayed in fecal samples using pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons. Western blot was performed using relevant antibodies to detect the protein expressions in liver and HepG2 cell extracts. Exercise and butyrate administration significantly reversed metabolic dysfunctions induced by HFD (P < 0.05). The number of Firmicutes and the proportion of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes order were predominant in all HFD groups (P = 0.001). Exercise and butyrate supplementation significantly inhibited the relative abundance of lipopolysaccharide-producing phyla (P = 0.001). SESN2 and CRTC2 expression in the liver of mice were significantly increased after exercise (P < 0.05) and/or supplementation of butyrate (P < 0.05). Exercise enhances butyrate-producing fecal bacteria and increases butyrate production and consequently improves lipid metabolism through the butyrate-SESN2/CRTC2 pathway. Excess butyrate may reduce the proportion of probiotics and reverse the metabolic effects.

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Wenqi Chen, Siyu Lu, Chengshun Yang, Na Li, Xuemei Chen, Junlin He, Xueqing Liu, Yubin Ding, Chao Tong, Chuan Peng, Chen Zhang, Yan Su, Yingxiong Wang and Rufei Gao

Previous research on the role of insulin has focused on metabolism. This study investigated the effect of insulin on angiogenesis in endometrial decidualization. High insulin-treated mouse model was constructed by subcutaneous injection of insulin. Venous blood glucose, serum insulin, P4, E2, FSH and LH levels in the pregnant mice were detected by ELISA. Decidual markers, angiogenesis factors and decidual vascular network were detected during decidualization in the pregnant mouse model and an artificially induced decidualization mouse model. Tube formation ability and angiogenesis factors expression were also detected in high insulin-treated HUVECS cells. To confirm whether autophagy participates in hyperinsulinemia-impaired decidual angiogenesis, autophagy was detected in vivo and in vitro. During decidualization, in the condition of high insulin, serum insulin and blood glucose were significantly higher, while ovarian steroid hormones were also disordered (P < 0.05), decidual markers BMP2 and PRL were significantly lower (P < 0.05). Uterine CD34 staining showed that the size of the vascular sinus was significantly smaller than that in control. Endometrial VEGFA was significantly decreased after treatment with high insulin in vivo and in vitro (P < 0.05), whereas ANG-1 and TIE2 expression was significantly increased (P < 0.05). In addition, aberrant expression of autophagy markers revealed that autophagy participates in endometrial angiogenesis during decidualization (P < 0.05). After treatment with the autophagy inhibitor 3-MA in HUVEC, the originally damaged cell tube formation ability and VEGFA expression were repaired. This study suggests that endometrial angiogenesis during decidualization was impaired by hyperinsulinemia in early pregnant mice.

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Eloise A Bradley, Dino Premilovac, Andrew C Betik, Donghua Hu, Emily Attrill, Stephen M Richards, Stephen Rattigan and Michelle A Keske

Insulin stimulates glucose disposal in skeletal muscle in part by increasing microvascular blood flow, and this effect is blunted during insulin resistance. We aimed to determine whether metformin treatment improves insulin-mediated glucose disposal and vascular insulin responsiveness in skeletal muscle of insulin-resistant rats. Sprague–Dawley rats were fed a normal (ND) or high-fat (HFD) diet for 4 weeks. A separate HFD group was given metformin in drinking water (HFD + MF, 150 mg/kg/day) during the final 2 weeks. After the intervention, overnight-fasted (food and metformin removed) anaesthetised rats underwent a 2-h euglycaemic–hyperinsulinaemic clamp (10 mU/min/kg) or saline infusion. Femoral artery blood flow, hindleg muscle microvascular blood flow, muscle glucose disposal and muscle signalling (Ser473-AKT and Thr172-AMPK phosphorylation) were measured. HFD rats had elevated body weight, epididymal fat pad weight, fasting plasma insulin and free fatty acid levels when compared to ND. HFD-fed animals displayed whole-body and skeletal muscle insulin resistance and blunting of insulin-stimulated femoral artery blood flow, muscle microvascular blood flow and skeletal muscle insulin-stimulated Ser473-AKT phosphorylation. Metformin treatment of HFD rats reduced fasting insulin and free fatty acid concentrations and lowered body weight and adiposity. During euglycaemic-hyperinsulinaemic clamp, metformin-treated animals showed improved vascular responsiveness to insulin, improved insulin-stimulated muscle Ser473-AKT phosphorylation but only partially restored (60%) muscle glucose uptake. This occurred without any detectable levels of metformin in plasma or change in muscle Thr172-AMPK phosphorylation. We conclude that 2-week metformin treatment is effective at improving vascular and metabolic insulin responsiveness in muscle of HFD-induced insulin-resistant rats.

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Joan Villarroya, Rubén Cereijo, Aleix Gavaldà-Navarro, Marion Peyrou, Marta Giralt and Francesc Villarroya

In recent years, an important secretory role of brown adipose tissue (BAT) has emerged, which is consistent, to some extent, with the earlier recognition of the important secretory role of white fat. The so-called brown adipokines or ‘batokines’ may play an autocrine role, which may either be positive or negative, in the thermogenic function of brown adipocytes. Additionally, there is a growing recognition of the signalling molecules released by brown adipocytes that target sympathetic nerve endings (such as neuregulin-4 and S100b protein), vascular cells (e.g., bone morphogenetic protein-8b), and immune cells (e.g., C-X-C motif chemokine ligand-14) to promote the tissue remodelling associated with the adaptive BAT recruitment in response to thermogenic stimuli. Moreover, existing indications of an endocrine role of BAT are being confirmed through the release of brown adipokines acting on other distant tissues and organs; a recent example is the recognition that BAT-secreted fibroblast growth factor-21 and myostatin target the heart and skeletal muscle, respectively. The application of proteomics technologies is aiding the identification of new members of the brown adipocyte secretome, such as the extracellular matrix or complement system components. In summary, BAT can no longer be considered a mere producer of heat in response to environment or dietary challenges; it is also an active secretory tissue releasing brown adipokines with a relevant local and systemic action. The identification of the major brown adipokines and their roles is highly important for the discovery of novel candidates useful in formulating intervention strategies for metabolic diseases.

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Kanta Kon, Hiroshi Tsuneki, Hisakatsu Ito, Yoshinori Takemura, Kiyofumi Sato, Mitsuaki Yamazaki, Yoko Ishii, Masakiyo Sasahara, Assaf Rudich, Takahiro Maeda, Tsutomu Wada and Toshiyasu Sasaoka

Disrupted sleep is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Central actions of orexin, mediated by orexin-1 and orexin-2 receptors, play a crucial role in the maintenance of wakefulness; accordingly, excessive activation of the orexin system causes insomnia. Resting-phase administration of dual orexin receptor antagonist (DORA) has been shown to improve sleep abnormalities and glucose intolerance in type 2 diabetic db/db mice, although the mechanism remains unknown. In the present study, to investigate the presence of functional link between sleep and glucose metabolism, the influences of orexin antagonists with or without sleep-promoting effects were compared on glucose metabolism in diabetic mice. In db/db mice, 2-SORA-MK1064 (an orexin-2 receptor antagonist) and DORA-12 (a DORA) acutely improved non-rapid eye movement sleep, whereas 1-SORA-1 (an orexin-1 receptor antagonist) had no effect. Chronic resting-phase administration of these drugs improved glucose intolerance, without affecting body weight, food intake, locomotor activity and energy expenditure calculated from O2 consumption and CO2 production. The expression levels of proinflammatory factors in the liver were reduced by 2-SORA-MK1064 and DORA-12, but not 1-SORA-1, whereas those in the white adipose tissue were reduced by 1-SORA-1 and DORA-12 more efficiently than 2-SORA-MK1064. When administered chronically at awake phase, these drugs caused no effect. In streptozotocin-induced type 1-like diabetic mice, neither abnormality in sleep–wake behavior nor improvement of glucose intolerance by these drugs were observed. These results suggest that both 1-SORA-type (sleep-independent) and 2-SORA-type (possibly sleep-dependent) mechanisms can provide chronotherapeutic effects against type 2 diabetes associated with sleep disturbances in db/db mice.

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Sarika Paul and Timothy M Brown

Endocrine systems function as key mediators of adaptive responses to the external environment. As a reliable predictor of many salient variations in the external world, the light environment thus constitutes an influential source of control over neuroendocrine function. Accordingly, the vast majority of endocrine systems display 24-h variations in activity that are aligned to daily changes in external illumination. While the neural mechanisms responsible for driving these rhythms are still incompletely understood, circadian and light-dependent signals relayed via the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus (SCN) play a key role. Retinal projections to the SCN provide information from rods, cones and melanopsin, which, together, encode variations in the amount and spectral content of ambient light over the solar day. This sensory input, in turn, drives acute modulations in SCN cellular activity and aligns daily rhythms in the electrophysiological output of individual clock neurons. Neural outputs from the SCN can therefore convey both rapid and longer-term information about the light environment to other hypothalamic nuclei responsible for neuroendocrine control. In this review we summarise current understanding of the specific neural pathways by which the light environment influences key neuroendocrine axes, with a particular focus on the retinal and SCN-dependent circuits involved and their known sensory properties.

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David W Scoville, Kristin Lichti-Kaiser, Sara A Grimm and Anton M Jetten

The Krüppel-like zinc finger transcription factor Gli-similar 3 (GLIS3) plays a critical role in the regulation of pancreatic beta cells, with global Glis3-knockout mice suffering from severe hyperglycemia and dying by post-natal day 11. In addition, GLIS3 has been shown to directly regulate the early endocrine marker Ngn3, as well as Ins2 gene expression in mature beta cells. We hypothesize that GLIS3 regulates several other genes critical to beta cell function, in addition to Ins2, by directly binding to regulatory regions. We therefore generated a pancreas-specific Glis3 deletion mouse model (Glis3 Δ panc) using a Pdx1-driven Cre mouse line. Roughly 20% of these mice develop hyperglycemia by 8 weeks and lose most of their insulin expression. However, this did not appear to be due to loss of the beta cells themselves, as no change in cell death was observed. Indeed, presumptive beta cells appeared to persist as PDX1+/INS/MAFA/GLUT2 cells. Islet RNA-seq analysis combined with GLIS3 ChIP-seq analysis revealed apparent direct regulation of a variety of diabetes-related genes, including Slc2a2 and Mafa. GLIS3 binding near these genes coincided with binding for other islet-enriched transcription factors, indicating these are distinct regulatory hubs. Our data indicate that GLIS3 regulates not only insulin expression, but also several additional genes critical for beta cell function.

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Jessica L Pierce, Ke-Hong Ding, Jianrui Xu, Anuj K Sharma, Kanglun Yu, Natalia del Mazo Arbona, Zuleika Rodríguez-Santos, Paul J Bernard, Wendy B Bollag, Maribeth H Johnson, Mark W Hamrick, Dana L Begun, Xing-Ming Shi, Carlos M Isales and Meghan E McGee-Lawrence

Excess fat within bone marrow is associated with lower bone density. Metabolic stressors such as chronic caloric restriction (CR) can exacerbate marrow adiposity, and increased glucocorticoid signaling and adrenergic signaling are implicated in this phenotype. The current study tested the role of glucocorticoid signaling in CR-induced stress by conditionally deleting the glucocorticoid receptor (Nr3c1; hereafter abbreviated as GR) in bone marrow osteoprogenitors (Osx1-Cre) of mice subjected to CR and ad libitum diets. Conditional knockout of the GR (GR-CKO) reduced cortical and trabecular bone mass as compared to WT mice under both ad libitum feeding and CR conditions. No interaction was detected between genotype and diet, suggesting that the GR is not required for CR-induced skeletal changes. The lower bone mass in GR-CKO mice, and the further decrease in bone by CR, resulted from suppressed bone formation. Interestingly, treatment with the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist propranolol mildly but selectively improved metrics of cortical bone mass in GR-CKO mice during CR, suggesting interaction between adrenergic and glucocorticoid signaling pathways that affects cortical bone. GR-CKO mice dramatically increased marrow fat under both ad libitum and CR-fed conditions, and surprisingly propranolol treatment was unable to rescue CR-induced marrow fat in either WT or GR-CKO mice. Additionally, serum corticosterone levels were selectively elevated in GR-CKO mice with CR, suggesting the possibility of bone–hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal crosstalk during metabolic stress. This work highlights the complexities of glucocorticoid and β-adrenergic signaling in stress-induced changes in bone mass, and the importance of GR function in suppressing marrow adipogenesis while maintaining healthy bone mass.