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Kenshiro Shikano, Eiko Iwakoshi-Ukena, Takaya Saito, Yuki Narimatsu, Atsuki Kadota, Megumi Furumitsu, George E Bentley, Lance J Kriegsfeld, and Kazuyoshi Ukena

We recently discovered a novel gene encoding a small secretory protein, neurosecretory protein GL (NPGL), which stimulates feeding behavior in mice following acute administration. These findings suggest that dysregulation of NPGL contributes to obesity and metabolic disease. To explore this possibility, we investigated the impact of prolonged exposure to NPGL through 13 days of chronic intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) infusion and examined feeding behavior, body composition, expressions of lipid metabolic factors, respiratory metabolism, locomotor activity, and food preference. Under standard chow diet, NPGL increased white adipose tissue (WAT) mass without affecting feeding behavior and body mass. In contrast, when fed a high-calorie diet, NPGL stimulated feeding behavior and increased body mass concomitant with marked fat accumulation. Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis revealed that mRNA expressions for key enzymes and related factors involved in lipid metabolism were increased in WAT and liver. Likewise, analyses of respiratory metabolism and locomotor activity revealed that energy expenditure and locomotor activity were significantly decreased by NPGL. In contrast, selective feeding of macronutrients did not alter food preference in response to NPGL, although total calorie intake was increased. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that NPGL-containing cells produce galanin, a neuropeptide that stimulates food intake. Taken together, these results provide further support for NPGL as a novel regulator of fat deposition through changes in energy intake and locomotor activity.

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Diego Crespo, Moline Severino Lemos, Yu Ting Zhang, Diego Safian, Birgitta Norberg, Jan Bogerd, and Rüdiger W Schulz

Changes in zebrafish testicular gene expression induced by follicle-stimulating hormone (Fsh) or anti-Mullerian hormone (Amh) suggested that Amh inhibition and Fsh stimulation of spermatogenesis involved up and downregulation, respectively, of prostaglandin (PG) signaling. We found that Sertoli cells contacting type A undifferentiated (Aund) and differentiating (Adiff) spermatogonia expressed a key enzyme of PG production (Ptgs2); previous work showed that Sertoli cells contacting Adiff and B spermatogonia and spermatocytes showed ptges3b expression, an enzyme catalyzing PGE2 production. In primary testis tissue cultures, PGE2, but not PGD2 or PGF, reduced the mitotic activity of Adiff and their development into B spermatogonia. Vice versa, inhibiting PG production increased the mitotic activity of Adiff and B spermatogonia. Studies with pharmacological PG receptor antagonists suggest that an Ep4 receptor mediates the inhibitory effects on the development of spermatogonia, and cell-sorting experiments indicated this receptor is expressed mainly by testicular somatic cells. Combined inhibition of PG and steroid production moreover reduced the mitotic activity of Aund spermatogonia and led to their partial depletion, suggesting that androgens (and/or other testicular steroids), supported by PGE2, otherwise prevent depletion of Aund. Androgens also decreased testicular PGE2 production, increased the transcript levels of the enzyme-catabolizing PGs and decreased PGE2 receptor ptger4b transcript levels. Also Fsh potentially reduced, independent of androgens, PGE2 production by decreasing ptges3b transcript levels. Taken together, our results indicate that PGE2, via Ep4 receptors, favors self-renewal in conjunction with androgens and, independent of Fsh and androgens, inhibits differentiating divisions of spermatogonia.

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Hong-Tao Zheng, Tao Fu, Hai-Yi Zhang, Zhen-Shan Yang, Zhan-Hong Zheng, and Zeng-Ming Yang

Glucocorticoids (GCs) are essential for mouse embryo implantation and decidualization. Excess GCs are harmful for mouse embryo implantation and decidualization. 11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases type I and II (Hsd11b1/Hsd11b2) are main enzymes for regulating local level of GCs. Hsd11b2 acts as the placental glucocorticoid barrier to protect the fetus from excessive exposure. Although effects of GCs on the fetus and placenta in late pregnancy have been extensively studied, the effects of these adrenal corticosteroids in early pregnancy are far less well defined. Therefore, we examined the expression, regulation and function of Hsd11b1/Hsd11b2 in mouse uterus during early pregnancy. We found that Hsd11b2 is highly expressed in endometrial stromal cells on days 3 and 4 of pregnancy and mainly upregulated by progesterone (P4). In both ovariectomized mice and cultured stromal cells, P4 significantly stimulates Hsd11b2 expression. P4 stimulation of Hsd11b2 is mainly mediated by the Ihh pathway. The uterine level of corticosterone (Cort) is regulated by Hsd11b2 during preimplantation. Embryo development and the number of inner cell mass cells are suppressed by Cort treatment. These results indicate that P4 should provide a low Cort environment for the development of preimplantation mouse embryos by promoting the expression of uterine Hsd11b2.

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Catalina Sierra-Ramos, Silvia Velazquez-Garcia, Arianna Vastola-Mascolo, Guadalberto Hernández, Nourdine Faresse, and Diego Alvarez de la Rosa

The serum- and glucocorticoid-induced kinase 1 (SGK1) is a transcriptional target of steroid hormones including glucocorticoids or aldosterone in addition to other stimuli such as glucose. SGK1 is activated via phosphoinositide 3-kinase, placing it downstream of insulin signaling. SGK1 participates in the upregulation of kidney Na+ reabsorption by aldosterone and has been linked to obesity-related hypertension in humans. We hypothesized that a systemic increase in SGK1 activity may trigger a multiplicity of mechanisms leading to simultaneous development of the main conditions that characterize the metabolic syndrome (MetS), including hypertension. We used a transgenic mouse model made with a bacterial artificial chromosome containing the whole mouse Sgk1 gene modified to introduce an activating point mutation. Wild type or transgenic 14-week-old male mice were fed with standard chow diet or high-fat diet for up to 18 weeks. Development of the main features of MetS and hepatic steatosis were monitored, and in vitro adipocyte differentiation was studied. Our results show that transgenic animals under high-fat diet rapidly and markedly develop MetS characterized by obesity, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and hypertension. In addition, SGK1 gain-of-function accelerates the development of hepatic steatosis. Our study suggests that inappropriate SGK1 activity represents a risk factor in developing MetS with hypertension and related end-organ damage. Our data support SGK1 as a possible therapeutic target in MetS and related complications and provides a useful gain-of-function model for pre-clinical drug testing.

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Elias Rawish, Laura Nickel, Franziska Schuster, Ines Stölting, Alex Frydrychowicz, Kathrin Saar, Norbert Hübner, Alaa Othman, Lars Kuerschner, and Walter Raasch

The AT1 receptor blocker telmisartan (TEL) prevents diet-induced obesity. Hypothalamic lipid metabolism is functionally important for energy homeostasis, as a surplus of lipids induces an inflammatory response in the hypothalamus, thus promoting the development of central leptin resistance. However, it is unclear as to whether TEL treatment affects the lipid status in the hypothalamus. C57BL/6N mice were fed with chow (CONchow) or high-fat diet (CONHFD). HFD-fed mice were gavaged with TEL (8 mg/kg/day, 12 weeks, TELHFD). Mice were phenotyped regarding weight gain, energy homeostasis, and glucose control. Hypothalamic lipid droplets were analyzed by fluorescence microscopy. Lipidomics were assessed by performing liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry in plasma and hypothalami. Adipokines were investigated using immunosorbent assays. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) was determined by Western blotting and immunohistochemical imaging. We found that body weight, energy homeostasis, and glucose control of TEL-treated mice remained normal while CONHFD became obese. Hypothalamic ceramide and triglyceride levels as well as alkyne oleate distribution were normalized in TELHFD. The lipid droplet signal in the tanycyte layer was higher in CONHFD than in CONchow and returned to normal under TELHFD conditions. High hypothalamic levels of GFAP protein indicate astrogliosis of CONHFD mice while normalized GFAP, TNFα, and IL1α levels of TELHFD mice suggest that TEL prevents hypothalamic inflammation. In conclusion, TEL has anti-obese efficacy and prevented lipid accumulation and lipotoxicity, which is accompanied by an anti-inflammatory effect in the murine hypothalamus. Our findings support the notion that a brain-related mechanism is involved in TEL-induced weight loss.

Open access

Hiroharu Mifune, Yuji Tajiri, Yusuke Sakai, Yukie Kawahara, Kento Hara, Takahiro Sato, Yoshihiro Nishi, Akinori Nishi, Ryouichi Mitsuzono, Tatsuyuki Kakuma, and Masayasu Kojima

We previously reported that voluntary exercise contributed to the amelioration of abnormal feeding behavior with a concomitant restoration of ghrelin production in a rat model of obesity, suggesting a possible relationship between exercise and appetite-regulating hormones. Ghrelin is known to be involved in the brain reward circuits via dopamine neurons related to motivational properties. We investigated the relevance of ghrelin as an initiator of voluntary exercise as well as feeding behavior. The plasma ghrelin concentration fluctuates throughout the day with its peak at the beginning of the dark period in the wild-type (WT) mice with voluntary exercise. Although predominant increases in wheel running activity were observed accordant to the peak of plasma ghrelin concentration in the WT mice, those were severely attenuated in the ghrelin-knockout (GKO) mice under either ad libitum or time-restricted feeding. A single injection of ghrelin receptor agonist brought about and reproduced a marked enhancement of wheel running activity, in contrast to no effect by the continuous administration of the same drug. Brain dopamine levels (DAs) were enhanced after food consumption in the WT mice under voluntary exercise. Although the acceleration of DAs were apparently blunted in the GKO mice, they were dramatically revived after the administration of ghrelin receptor agonist, suggesting the relevance of ghrelin in the reward circuit under voluntary exercise. These findings emphasize that the surge of ghrelin plays a crucial role in the formation of motivation for the initiation of voluntary exercise possibly related to the central dopamine system.

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Tabata M Bohlen, Thais T Zampieri, Isadora C Furigo, Pryscila D S Teixeira, Edward O List, John J Kopchick, Jose Donato Jr, and Renata Frazao

Growth hormone (GH) is a key factor in the regulation of body growth, as well as a variety of other cellular and metabolic processes. Neurons expressing kisspeptin and leptin receptors (LepR) have been shown to modulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis and are considered GH responsive. The presence of functional GH receptors (GHR) in these neural populations suggests that GH may regulate the HPG axis via a central mechanism. However, there have been no studies evaluating whether or not GH-induced intracellular signaling in the brain plays a role in the timing of puberty or mediates the ovulatory cycle. Toward the goal of understanding the influence of GH on the central nervous system as a mediator of reproductive functions, GHR ablation was induced in kisspeptin and LepR-expressing cells or in the entire brain. The results demonstrated that GH signaling in specific neural populations can potentially modulate the hypothalamic expression of genes related to the reproductive system or indirectly contribute to the progression of puberty. GH action in kisspeptin cells or in the entire brain was not required for sexual maturation. On the other hand, GHR ablation in LepR cells delayed puberty progression, reduced serum leptin levels, decreased body weight gain and compromised the ovulatory cycle in some individuals, while the lack of GH effects in the entire brain prompted shorter estrous cycles. These findings suggest that GH can modulate brain components of the HPG axis, although central GH signaling is not required for the timing of puberty.

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Ying Zhang, Nan Meng, Haili Bao, Yufei Jiang, Ningjie Yang, Kejia Wu, Jinxiang Wu, Haibin Wang, Shuangbo Kong, and Yuanzhen Zhang

Progesterone is an important hormone for female reproduction; however, how the fluctuation of progesterone acts upon reproductive processes remains largely unknown. Mounting evidence indicates a pivotal role of the circadian clock in sensing hormone dynamics for homeostatic regulation of physiological functions. Therefore, we sought to determine whether clock genes respond to progesterone signaling in female reproductive system. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that the circadian system could respond to progesterone signaling during human endometrial decidual transformation. The expression of the circadian gene PER1 increased immediately and remained elevated during human endometrial decidualization. The progesterone receptor activated PER1 transcription by directly binding to its promoter from the onset of the stromal proliferation-differentiation transition. PER1 knockout significantly downregulated the expression of some PGR target genes, and attenuated human endometrial decidual transformation by expediting FOXO1 protein degradation. In conclusion, progesterone could control the female reproductive process through sustained feedback from the circadian gene PER1, which is probably involved to P4-PR signaling responsiveness in the initiation and maintenance of decidualization.

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Rosalia C M Simmen, Dustin M Brown, Charles M Quick, Iad Alhallak, Tyler Rose, Shi J Liu, and Angela S Kelley

Type 1 diabetes mellitus and endometriosis separately affect millions of women worldwide. Reproductive-age women diagnosed with type 1 diabetes may also suffer from endometriosis, but the asymptomatic pre-clinical period of highly variable duration for each condition can lead to challenges in the timely recognition of co-morbid disease onset and misdiagnosis. While knowledge of the pathogenesis of each condition has grown substantially, co-morbid endometriosis and type 1 diabetes has not been widely considered and much less addressed. This review discusses the molecular rationale for the likelihood of their co-existence, and prospects for improvements in therapeutic strategies and reduced complications, if this paradigm is included as a significant variable in disease management.

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Andrew T Major, Katie L Ayers, Justin Chue, Kelly N Roeszler, and Craig A Smith

FOXL2 is a conserved transcription factor with a central role in ovarian development and function. Studies in humans and mice indicate that the main role of FOXL2 is in the postnatal ovary, namely folliculogenesis. To shed light on the function and evolution of FOXL2 in the female gonad, we examined its role in embryonic avian gonads, using in ovo overexpression and knockdown. FOXL2 mRNA and protein are expressed female specifically in the embryonic chicken gonad, just prior to the onset of sexual differentiation. FOXL2 is expressed in the medullary cord cells, in the same cell type as aromatase (CYP19A1). In addition, later in development, expression also becomes localised in a subset of cortical cells, distinct from those expressing oestrogen receptor alpha. Misexpression of FOXL2 in the male chicken embryonic gonad suppresses the testis developmental pathway, abolishing local expression of the male pathway genes SOX9, DMRT1 and AMH and repressing Sertoli cell development. Conversely, knockdown of FOXL2 expression allows ectopic activation of SOX9 in female gonads. However, misexpression of FOXL2 alone was insufficient to activate aromatase expression in male gonads, while FOXL2 knockdown did not affect aromatase expression in females. These results indicate that FOXL2 plays an important role in embryonic differentiation of the avian ovary via antagonism of SOX9, but may be dispensable for aromatase activation at embryonic stages. The data suggest that FOXL2 has different roles in different species, more central for embryonic ovarian differentiation in egg-laying vertebrates.