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Iyad H Manaserh, Emily Maly, Marziyeh Jahromi, Lakshmikanth Chikkamenahalli, Joshua Park, and Jennifer Hill

The important role of astrocytes in the central control of energy balance and glucose homeostasis has recently been recognized. Changes in thermoregulation can lead to metabolic dysregulation, but the role of astrocytes in this process is not yet clear. Therefore, we generated mice congenitally lacking insulin receptors (Ir) in astrocytes (IrKOGFAP mice) to investigate the involvement of astrocyte insulin signaling. IrKOGFAP mice displayed significantly lower energy expenditure and a strikingly lower basal and fasting body temperature. When exposed to cold, however, they were able to mount a thermogenic response. IrKOGFAP mice displayed sex differences in metabolic function and thermogenesis that may contribute to the development of obesity and type II diabetes as early as 2 months of age. While brown adipose tissue exhibited higher adipocyte size in both sexes, more apoptosis was seen in IrKOGFAP males. Less innervation and lower BAR3 expression levels were also observed in IrKOGFAP brown adipose tissue. These effects have not been reported in models of astrocyte Ir deletion in adulthood. In contrast, body weight and glucose regulatory defects phenocopied such models. These findings identify a novel role for astrocyte insulin signaling in the development of normal body temperature control and sympathetic activation of BAT. Targeting insulin signaling in astrocytes has the potential to serve as a novel target for increasing energy expenditure.

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Tian Shuang, Ming Fu, Guangdong Yang, Ying Huang, Zhongming Qian, Lingyun Wu, and Rui Wang

Both estrogen and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) inhibit the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and development of atherosclerosis. In the absence of endogenous H2S as occurred in CSE-knockout (KO) mouse, however, estrogen stimulates the proliferation of vascular SMCs. The underlying mechanisms for this seemingly controversial vascular effect of estrogen are unclear. In the present study, we demonstrated that the stimulatory effect of estrogen on the proliferation of CSE-KO SMCs was suppressed by the inhibitor of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) or knockdown of IGF-1R protein expression. Estrogen downregulated the expression of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and IGF-1R in aortic tissues or aortic SMCs isolated from wild-type (WT) and CSE-KO mice. Furthermore, endogenous H2S downregulated IGF-1R, but upregulated estrogen receptor (ER)-α, in aortic tissues or SMCs. ER-α and IGF-1R were co-located in SMCs and co-immunoprecipitated, which was decreased by H2S. Finally, both endogenous and exogenous H2S induced the S-sulfhydration of IGF-1R, but not ER-α, in WT-SMCs and CSE-KO SMCs, which underlies the decreased formation of IGF-1R/ER-α hybrid in the presence of H2S. Thus, the absence of H2S favors the interaction of estrogen with IGF-1R/ER-α hybrid to stimulate SMCs proliferation. The appreciation of a critical role of H2S in preventing estrogen-induced SMCs proliferation will help better understand the regulation of complex vascular effects of estrogen and sex-related cardiovascular diseases.

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Henrik Oster

Endogenous circadian clocks adapt an organism’s physiology and behavior to predictable changes in the environment as a consequence of the Earth’s rotation around its axis. In mammals, circadian rhythms are the output of a ubiquitous network of cellular timers coordinated by a hypothalamic master pacemaker. Circadian clock function is closely connected to the stress response system which has evolved to ensure survival under less predictable situations of danger. Disruptions in both of these functions are highly prevalent in modern society and have been linked to pathologic alterations in metabolic setpoints, promoting overeating, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. This paper describes the different levels of interaction between the circadian clock and acute and chronic stress responses. It summarizes studies assessing clock-stress crosstalk in the context of metabolic homeostasis and outlines options to use this interaction for diagnostic and therapeutic measures targeting metabolic health and well-being in the highly chronodisruptive environment of modern 24-h globalized societies.

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Prasanthi P Koganti and Vimal Selvaraj

Despite being a highly conserved protein, the precise role of the mitochondrial translocator protein (TSPO), previously known as the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), remains elusive. The void created by studies that overturned a presumptive model that described TSPO/PBR as a mitochondrial cholesterol transporter for steroidogenesis has been filled with evidence that it can affect mitochondrial metabolic functions across different model systems. We previously reported that TSPO/PBR deficient steroidogenic cells upregulate mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation and presented a strong positive correlation between TSPO/PBR expression and tissues active in triglyceride metabolism or lipid storage. Nevertheless, the highlighting of inconsistencies in prior work has provoked reprisals that threaten to stifle progress. One frequent factoid presented as being supportive of a cholesterol import function is that there are no steroid-synthesizing cell types without high TSPO/PBR expression. In this study, we examine the hamster adrenal gland that is devoid of lipid droplets in the cortex and largely relies on de novo cholesterol biosynthesis and uptake for steroidogenesis. We find that Tspo expression in the hamster adrenal is imperceptible compared to the mouse. This observation is consistent with a substantially low expression of Cpt1a in the hamster adrenal, indicating minimal mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation capacity compared to the mouse. These findings provide further reinforcement that the much sought-after mechanism of TSPO/PBR function remains correlated with the extent of cellular triglyceride metabolism. Thus, TSPO/PBR could have a homeostatic function relevant only to steroidogenic systems that manage triglycerides associated with lipid droplets.

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Brit H Boehmer, Peter R Baker II, Laura D Brown, Stephanie R Wesolowski, and Paul J Rozance

A 9-day infusion of leucine into fetal sheep potentiates fetal glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). However, there were accompanying pancreatic structural changes that included a larger proportion of β-cells and increased vascularity. Whether leucine can acutely potentiate fetal GSIS in vivo before these structural changes develop is unknown. The mechanisms by which leucine acutely potentiates GSIS in adult islets and insulin-secreting cell lines are well known. These mechanisms involve leucine metabolism, including leucine oxidation. However, it is not clear if leucine-stimulated metabolic pathways are active in fetal islets. We hypothesized that leucine would acutely potentiate GSIS in fetal sheep and that isolated fetal islets are capable of oxidizing leucine. We also hypothesized that leucine would stimulate other metabolic pathways associated with insulin secretion. In pregnant sheep we tested in vivo GSIS with and without an acute leucine infusion. In isolated fetal sheep islets, we measured leucine oxidation with a [1-14C] l-leucine tracer. We also measured concentrations of other amino acids, glucose, and analytes associated with cellular metabolism following incubation of fetal islets with leucine. In vivo, a leucine infusion resulted in glucose-stimulated insulin concentrations that were over 50% higher than controls (P < 0.05). Isolated fetal islets oxidized leucine. Leucine supplementation of isolated fetal islets also resulted in significant activation of metabolic pathways involving leucine and other amino acids. In summary, acute leucine supplementation potentiates fetal GSIS in vivo, likely through pathways related to the oxidation of leucine and catabolism of other amino acids.

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Julia Nc Toews, Geoffrey L Hammond, and Victor Viau

Normal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is critical for survival, and its development is choreographed for age-, sex- and context-specific actions. The liver influences HPA ontogeny, integrating diverse endocrine signals that inhibit or activate its development. This review examines how developmental changes in the expression of genes in the liver coordinate postnatal changes in multiple endocrine systems that coordinate the maturation and sexual dimorphism of the rat HPA axis. Specifically, it examines how the ontogeny of testicular androgen production, somatostatin-growth hormone activities, and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis activity intersect to influence the hepatic gene expression of insulin-like growth factor 1, corticosteroid-binding globulin, thyroxine-binding globulin, 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 and 5α-reductase type 1. The timing of such molecular changes vary between mammalian species, but they are evolutionarily conserved and are poised to control homeostasis broadly, especially during adversity. Importantly, with the liver as their nexus, these diverse endocrine systems establish the fundamental organization of the HPA axis throughout postnatal development, and thereby ultimately determine the actions of glucocorticoids during adulthood.

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Pierre Hofstee, Janelle James-McAlpine, Daniel R McKeating, Jessica J Vanderlelie, James SM Cuffe, and Anthony V Perkins

Thyroid disorders are the most common endocrine disorders affecting women commencing pregnancy. Thyroid hormone metabolism is strongly influenced by selenium status; however, the relationship between serum selenium concentrations and thyroid hormones in euthyroid pregnant women is unknown. This study investigated the relationship between maternal selenium and thyroid hormone status during pregnancy by utilising data from a retrospective, cross-sectional study with cohorts from two tertiary care hospitals in South East Queensland, Australia. Pregnant women (n = 206) were recruited at 26-30 weeks gestation and serum selenium concentrations were assessed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Thyroid function was measured in serum samples from women (n=21) with the lowest serum selenium concentrations (51.2 ± 1.2 µg/L), mean concentrations of the entire cohort (78.8 ± 0.4 µg/L) and the optimal serum selenium concentrations (106.9 ± 2.3 µg/L). Women with low serum selenium concentrations demonstrated reduced fT3 levels (P < 0.05) and increased TPOAb (P < 0.01). Serum selenium was positively correlated with fT3 (P < 0.05) and negatively correlated with TPOAb (P < 0.001). Serum fT4 and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) was not different between all groups, though the fT4/TSH ratio was increased in the low selenium cohort (P < 0.05). Incidence of pregnancy disorders, most notably gestational diabetes mellitus, was increased within the low serum selenium cohort (P < 0.01). These results suggest selenium status in pregnant women of South East Queensland may not be adequate, with possible implications for atypical thyroid function and undesirable pregnancy outcomes.

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Gustavo Canul-Medina, Leticia Riveron-Negrete, Karina Pastén-Hidalgo, Paulina Morales-Castillo, Francisco García-Vázquez, and Cristina Fernandez-Mejia

Pancreatic islets adapt to metabolic requirements and the hormonal milieu by modifying their size and hormone secretions. Maternal glucose demands and hormonal changes occur after weaning, to rapidly re-establish bone mineralization. Minimal information exists about glucose metabolism and pancreatic islets after lactation. This study investigated islet morphology and glucose homeostasis for 14 days after lactation in C57BL/6NHHsd mice. Compared to the day of weaning, rapid increases in the islets’ area and number of beta cells were found from the first day post lactation, attaining maximum values on the third day post weaning. These changes were accompanied by modifications in glucose-induced insulin secretion, glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Islet-cell proliferation was already augmented before lactation ceased. Serum undercarboxylated osteocalcin concentrations increased significantly post lactation; however, it is unlikely that this enhancement participates in earlier cell proliferation augmentation or in decreasing insulin sensitivity. Islet serotonin content was barely expressed, and serum calcium concentrations decreased. By the 14th day post weaning, islets’ area and glucose homeostasis returned to age-matched virgin mice levels. These findings recognize for the first time that increases in islet area and insulin secretion occur during physiological post-weaning conditions. These results open up new opportunities to identify molecules and mechanisms participating in these processes, which will help in developing strategies to combat diabetes.

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Alexia Barroso, Jose Antonio Santos-Marcos, Cecilia Perdices-Lopez, Ana Vega-Rojas, Miguel Angel Sanchez-Garrido, Yelizabeta Krylova, Helena Molina-Abril, Claes Ohlsson, Pablo Perez-Martinez, Matti Poutanen, Jose Lopez-Miranda, Manuel Tena-Sempere, and Antonio Camargo

Gonadal steroids strongly contribute to the metabolic programming that shapes the susceptibility to the manifestation of diseases later in life, and the effect is often sexually dimorphic. Microbiome signatures, together with metabolic traits and sex steroid levels, were analyzed at adulthood in neonatally androgenized female rats, and compared with those of control male and female rats. Exposure of female rats to high doses of androgens on early postnatal life resulted in persistent alterations of the sex steroid profile later on life, namely lower progesterone and higher estradiol and estrone levels, with no effect on endogenous androgens. Neonatally androgenized females were heavier (10% at early adulthood and 26% at adulthood) than controls and had impaired glucose homeostasis observed by higher AUC of glucose in GTT and ITT when subjected to obesogenic manipulations. Androgenized female displayed overt alterations in gut microbiota, indicated especially by higher Bacteroidetes and lower Firmicutes abundance at early adulthood, which disappeared when animals were concurrently overfed at adulthood. Notably, these changes in gut microbiota were related with the intestinal expression of several miRNAs, such as miR-27a-3p, miR-29a-5p, and miR-100-3p. Our results suggest that nutritional and hormonal disruption at early developmental periods not only alters the metabolic programming of the individual later in life but also perturbs the architecture of gut microbiota, which may interact with the host by a cross-talk mediated by intestinal miRNAs; phenomena that may contribute to amplify the metabolic derangement caused by obesity, as seen in neonatally androgenized female rats.

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Napatsorn Saiyasit, Titikorn Chunchai, Thidarat Jaiwongkam, Sasiwan Kerdphoo, Nattayaporn Apaijai, Wasana Pratchayasakul, Jirapas Sripetchwandee, Nipon Chattipakorn, and Siriporn C Chattipakorn

Exogenous treatment of a neurotensin receptor 1 (NTR1) agonist exerted the neuroprotection in an obese and Alzheimer’s model. However, the effects of NTR1 modulation on peripheral/hippocampal impairment and cognitive deficit following sustained HFD consumption are poorly understood. Forty rats received a normal diet (ND) or HFD for 16 weeks. At week 13, the ND group received a vehicle (n=8). Thirty-two HFD-fed group were randomized into 4 subgroups (n=8/subgroup) with a vehicle, 1 mg/kg of NTR1 agonist, 1 mg/kg of NTR antagonist, and combined treatment (NTR1 agonist-NTR antagonist) for 2 weeks, subcutaneous injection. Then, the cognitive tests and peripheral/hippocampal parameters were determined. Our findings demonstrated that NTR1 activator reversed obesity and attenuated metabolic impairment in pre-diabetic rats. It also alleviated hippocampal pathologies and synaptic dysplasticity, leading to decelerate or prevent progression of cognitive impairment. Therefore, NTR1 activation would be a possible novel therapy to decelerate or prevent progression of neuropathology and cognitive impairment in the pre-diabetes.