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Jacqueline M Wallace

The competition for nutrients that arises when pregnancy coincides with continuing or incomplete growth in young adolescent girls increases the risk of preterm delivery and low birthweight with negative after-effects for mother and child extending beyond the perinatal period. Sheep paradigms involving nutritional management of weight and adiposity in young, biologically immature adolescents have allowed the consequences of differential maternal growth status to be explored. Although nutrient reserves at conception play a modest role, it is the dietary manipulation of the maternal growth trajectory thereafter which has the most negative impact on pregnancy outcome. Overnourishing adolescents to promote rapid maternal growth is particularly detrimental as placental growth, uteroplacental blood flows and fetal nutrient delivery are perturbed leading to a high incidence of fetal growth restriction and premature delivery of low birthweight lambs, whereas in undernourished adolescents further maternal growth is prevented, and depletion of the maternal body results in a small reduction in birthweight independent of placental size. Maternal and placental endocrine systems are differentially altered in both paradigms with downstream effects on fetal endocrine systems, organ development and body composition. Approaches to reverse these effects have been explored, predominantly targeting placental growth or function. After birth, growth-restricted offspring born to overnourished adolescents and fed to appetite have an altered metabolic phenotype which persists into adulthood, whereas offspring of undernourished adolescents are largely unaffected. This body of work using ovine paradigms has public health implications for nutritional advice offered to young adolescents before and during pregnancy, and their offspring thereafter.

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Kok Lim Kua, Shanming Hu, Chunlin Wang, Jianrong Yao, Diana Dang, Alexander B Sawatzke, Jeffrey L Segar, Kai Wang and Andrew W Norris

Offspring exposed in utero to maternal diabetes exhibit long-lasting insulin resistance, though the initiating mechanisms have received minimal experimental attention. Herein, we show that rat fetuses develop insulin resistance after only 2-day continuous exposure to isolated hyperglycemia starting on gestational day 18. Hyperglycemia-induced reductions in insulin-induced AKT phosphorylation localized primarily to fetal skeletal muscle. The skeletal muscle of hyperglycemia-exposed fetuses also exhibited impaired in vivo glucose uptake. To address longer term impacts of this short hyperglycemic exposure, neonates were cross-fostered and examined at 21 days postnatal age. Offspring formerly exposed to 2 days late gestation hyperglycemia exhibited mild glucose intolerance with insulin signaling defects localized only to skeletal muscle. Fetal hyperglycemic exposure has downstream consequences which include hyperinsulinemia and relative uteroplacental insufficiency. To determine whether these accounted for induction of insulin resistance, we examined fetuses exposed to late gestational isolated hyperinsulinemia or uterine artery ligation. Importantly, 2 days of fetal hyperinsulinemia did not impair insulin signaling in murine fetal tissues and 21-day-old offspring exposed to fetal hyperinsulinemia had normal glucose tolerance. Similarly, fetal exposure to 2-day uteroplacental insufficiency did not perturb insulin-stimulated AKT phosphorylation in fetal rats. We conclude that fetal exposure to hyperglycemia acutely produces insulin resistance. As hyperinsulinemia and placental insufficiency have no such impact, this occurs likely via direct tissue effects of hyperglycemia. Furthermore, these findings show that skeletal muscle is uniquely susceptible to immediate and persistent insulin resistance induced by hyperglycemia.

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Miguel A Velazquez, Tom P Fleming and Adam J Watkins

The concept emerging from Professor David Barker’s seminal research on the developmental origins of later-life disease has progressed in many directions since it was first published. One critical question being when during gestation might environment alter the developmental programme with such enduring consequences. Here, we review the growing consensus from clinical and animal research that the period around conception, embracing gamete maturation and early embryogenesis might be the most vulnerable period. We focus on four types of environmental exposure shown to modify periconceptional reproduction and offspring development and health: maternal overnutrition and obesity; maternal undernutrition; paternal diet and health; and assisted reproductive technology. These conditions may act through diverse epigenetic, cellular and physiological mechanisms to alter gene expression and cellular signalling and function in the conceptus affecting offspring growth and metabolism leading to increased risk for cardiometabolic and neurological disease in later life.

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Trassanee Chatmethakul and Robert D Roghair

Consistent with the paradigm shifting observations of David Barker and colleagues that revealed a powerful relationship between decreased weight through 2 years of age and adult disease, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and preterm birth are independent risk factors for the development of subsequent hypertension. Animal models have been indispensable in defining the mechanisms responsible for these associations and the potential targets for therapeutic intervention. Among the modifiable risk factors, micronutrient deficiency, physical immobility, exaggerated stress hormone exposure and deficient trophic hormone production are leading candidates for targeted therapies. With the strong inverse relationship seen between gestational age at delivery and the risk of hypertension in adulthood trumping all other major cardiovascular risk factors, improvements in neonatal care are required. Unfortunately, therapeutic breakthroughs have not kept pace with rapidly improving perinatal survival, and groundbreaking bench-to-bedside studies are urgently needed to mitigate and ultimately prevent the tsunami of prematurity-related adult cardiovascular disease that may be on the horizon. This review highlights our current understanding of the developmental origins of hypertension and draws attention to the importance of increasing the availability of lactation consultants, nutritionists, pharmacists and physical therapists as critical allies in the battle that IUGR or premature infants are waging not just for survival but also for their future cardiometabolic health.

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Anne M Houbrechts, Jolien Van houcke and Veerle M Darras

Thyroid hormones are crucial mediators of many aspects of vertebrate life, including reproduction. The key player is the biologically active 3,5,3’-triiodothyronine (T3), whose local bio-availability is strictly regulated by deiodinase enzymes. Deiodinase type 2 (Dio2) is present in many tissues and is the main enzyme for local T3 production. To unravel its role in different physiological processes, we generated a mutant zebrafish line, completely lacking Dio2 activity. Here we focus on the reproductive phenotype studied at the level of offspring production, gametogenesis, functioning of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis and sex steroid production. Homozygous Dio2-deficient zebrafish were hypothyroid, displayed a delay in sexual maturity and the duration of their reproductive period was substantially shortened. Fecundity and fertilization were also severely reduced. Gamete counts pointed to a delay in oogenesis at onset of sexual maturity and later on to an accumulation of oocytes in mutant ovaries due to inhibition of ovulation. Analysis of spermatogenesis showed a strongly decreased number of spermatogonia A at onset of sexual maturity. Investigation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis revealed that dysregulation was largely confined to the gonads with significant upregulation of igf3, and a strong decrease in sex steroid production concomitant with alterations in gene expression in steroidogenesis/steroid signaling pathways. Rescue of the phenotype by T3 supplementation starting at 4 weeks resulted in normalization of reproductive activity in both sexes. The combined results show that reproductive function in mutants is severely hampered in both sexes, thereby linking the loss of Dio2 activity and the resulting hypothyroidism to reproductive dysfunction.

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Shiyun Tong, Shumin Yang, Ting Li, Rufei Gao, Jinbo Hu, Ting Luo, Hua Qing, Qianna Zhen, Renzhi Hu, Xuan Li, Yi Yang, Chuan Peng and Qifu Li

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a common environmental pollutant, and exposure to it is associated with proteinuria and may predict the progression of chronic kidney disease; however, the mechanism is not clear. Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) are a DNA skeleton coated with various proteases, and it is associated with various types of autoimmune nephritis. In this study, we examine whether NETs is involved in BPA-induced chronic kidney injury. In vivo, BPA exposure resulted in impaired renal function and altered renal morphology, including glomerular mesangial matrix expansion and increased renal interstitial fibroblast markers. Meanwhile, more dsDNA can be detected in the serum, and the NETs-associated proteins, MPO and citH3 were deposited in the renal system. In vitro, BPA and NETs treatment caused podocyte injury, a loss of marker proteins and disorder in the actin skeleton. After NETs inhibition via DNase administration, BPA-induced injuries were significantly relieved. In conclusion, the increase of NETosis in circulation and the renal system during BPA exposure suggests that NETs may be involved in BPA-induced chronic kidney injury.

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Elizabeth K Fletcher, Monica Kanki, James Morgan, David W Ray, Lea M Delbridge, Peter J Fuller, Colin D Clyne and Morag J Young

We previously identified a critical pathogenic role for mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) activation in cardiomyocytes that included a potential interaction between the MR and the molecular circadian clock. While glucocorticoid regulation of the circadian clock is undisputed, studies on MR interactions with circadian clock signalling are limited. We hypothesised that the MR influences cardiac circadian clock signalling, and vice versa. Aldosterone or corticosterone (10 nM) regulated Cry1, Per1, Per2 and ReverbA (Nr1d1) gene expression patterns in H9c2 cells over 24 h. MR-dependent regulation of circadian gene promoters containing GREs and E-box sequences was established for CLOCK, Bmal, CRY1 and CRY2, PER1 and PER2 and transcriptional activators CLOCK and Bmal modulated MR-dependent transcription of a subset of these promoters. We also demonstrated differential regulation of MR target gene expression in hearts of mice 4 h after administration of aldosterone at 08:00 h vs 20:00 h. Our data support MR regulation of a subset of circadian genes, with endogenous circadian transcription factors CLOCK and BMAL modulating the response. This unsuspected relationship links MR in the heart to circadian rhythmicity at the molecular level and has important implications for the biology of MR signalling in response to aldosterone as well as cortisol. These data are consistent with MR signalling in the brain where, like the heart, it preferentially responds to cortisol. Given the undisputed requirement for diurnal cortisol release in the entrainment of peripheral clocks, the present study highlights the MR as an important mechanism for transducing the circadian actions of cortisol in addition to glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in the heart.

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Jirapas Sripetchwandee, Hiranya Pintana, Piangkwan Sa-nguanmoo, Chiraphat Boonnag, Wasana Pratchayasakul, Nipon Chattipakorn and Siriporn C Chattipakorn

Obese-insulin resistance following chronic high-fat diet consumption led to cognitive decline through several mechanisms. Moreover, sex hormone deprivation, including estrogen and testosterone, could be a causative factor in inducing cognitive decline. However, comparative studies on the effects of hormone deprivation on the brain are still lacking. Adult Wistar rats from both genders were operated upon (sham operations or orchiectomies/ovariectomies) and given a normal diet or high-fat diet for 4, 8 and 12 weeks. Blood was collected to determine the metabolic parameters. At the end of the experiments, rats were decapitated and their brains were collected to determine brain mitochondrial function, brain oxidative stress, hippocampal plasticity, insulin-induced long-term depression, dendritic spine density and cognition. We found that male and female rats fed a high-fat diet developed obese-insulin resistance by week 8 and brain defects via elevated brain oxidative stress, brain mitochondrial dysfunction, impaired insulin-induced long-term depression, hippocampal dysplasticity, reduced dendritic spine density and cognitive decline by week 12. In normal diet-fed rats, estrogen deprivation, not testosterone deprivation, induced obese-insulin resistance, oxidative stress, brain mitochondrial dysfunction, impaired insulin-induced long-term depression, hippocampal dysplasticity and reduced dendritic spine density. In high-fat–diet-fed rats, estrogen deprivation, not testosterone deprivation, accelerated and aggravated obese-insulin resistance and brain defects at week 8. In conclusion, estrogen deprivation aggravates brain dysfunction more than testosterone deprivation through increased oxidative stress, brain mitochondrial dysfunction, impaired insulin-induced long-term depression and dendritic spine reduction. These findings may explain clinical reports which show more severe cognitive decline in aging females than males with obese-insulin resistance.

Open access

A Edlund, M Barghouth, M Hühn, M Abels, J S E Esguerra, I G Mollet, E Svedin, A Wendt, E Renström, E Zhang, N Wierup, B J Scholte, M Flodström-Tullberg and L Eliasson

Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD) is a common complication for patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), a disease caused by mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). The cause of CFRD is unclear, but a commonly observed reduction in first-phase insulin secretion suggests defects at the beta cell level. Here we aimed to examine alpha and beta cell function in the Cftr tm1 EUR/F508del mouse model (C57BL/6J), which carries the most common human mutation in CFTR, the F508del mutation. CFTR expression, beta cell mass, insulin granule distribution, hormone secretion and single cell capacitance changes were evaluated using islets (or beta cells) from F508del mice and age-matched wild type (WT) mice aged 7–10 weeks. Granular pH was measured with DND-189 fluorescence. Serum glucose, insulin and glucagon levels were measured in vivo, and glucose tolerance was assessed using IPGTT. We show increased secretion of proinsulin and concomitant reduced secretion of C-peptide in islets from F508del mice compared to WT mice. Exocytosis and number of docked granules was reduced. We confirmed reduced granular pH by CFTR stimulation. We detected decreased pancreatic beta cell area, but unchanged beta cell number. Moreover, the F508del mutation caused failure to suppress glucagon secretion leading to hyperglucagonemia. In conclusion, F508del mice have beta cell defects resulting in (1) reduced number of docked insulin granules and reduced exocytosis and (2) potential defective proinsulin cleavage and secretion of immature insulin. These observations provide insight into the functional role of CFTR in pancreatic islets and contribute to increased understanding of the pathogenesis of CFRD.

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Saad A Amer, Nadia G Alzanati, Avril Warren, Rebecca Tarbox and Raheela Khan

The purpose of this study was to investigate androgen production and the role of insulin and LH in its regulation in subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Protein and mRNA expression of androgen synthesis enzymes (cytochrome P450 17A1 (CYP17A1) and aldo-keto reductase 1C3 (AKR1C3)) were measured in SAT biopsies from women with PCOS, diagnosed according to the Rotterdam criteria (n = 15) and healthy controls (n = 15). Cultured mature adipocytes (differentiated from SAT biopsies) were treated with insulin ± phosphoinositol-3-kinase inhibitor (LY294002) or LH ± insulin. CYP17A1 and AKR1C3 mRNA expression and testosterone concentrations were measured in treated and untreated adipocyte cultures. AKR1C3 mRNA was significantly (P < 0.001) greater in PCOS vs non-PCOS SAT, but CYP17A1 was not significantly different between the two groups. AKR1C3 and CYP17A1 protein expression was not significantly different in PCOS vs non-PCOS SAT. In untreated adipocyte cultures, CYP17A1, AKR1C3 and testosterone levels were significantly higher in the PCOS vs the non-PCOS groups. Addition of insulin increased AKR1C3 mRNA and testosterone levels, but not CYP17A1 mRNA in non-PCOS with no effect on PCOS adipocytes. The stimulatory effects of insulin were not inhibited by LY294002. Addition of LH increased CYP17A1, AKR1C3 and testosterone in non-PCOS adipocytes with no effect in PCOS adipocytes. In conclusion, SAT of women with PCOS produces excess androgen, which may contribute to PCOS-related hyperandrogenaemia. This SAT androgen excess is independent of obesity and is not directly stimulated by inulin or LH.