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Isabelle Lee, Guannan Zhang, Clementina Mesaros, and Trevor M Penning

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are environmental pollutants generated from the incomplete combustion of organic material. PAHs have been studied as genotoxicants, but some also act via non-genotoxic mechanisms in estrogen dependent maglinancies, such as breast cancer. PAHs require metabolic activation to electrophilic metabolites to exert their genotoxicity but non-genotoxic properties may also contribute to their carcinogenicity. The role of PAHs in endometrial cancer, a cancer associated with unopposed estrogen action is unknown. We assessed the metabolism of the representative PAH, benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), to estrogenic compounds in Ishikawa human endometrial cells in the presence and absence of cytochrome P450 induction. Using stable-isotope dilution high performance liquid chromatography and APCI tandem mass spectrometry in the selected reaction monitoring mode, we analyzed B[a]P metabolism in Ishikawa cells. Estrogenic activity of B[a]P metabolites was determined by the endogenous estrogen inducible alkaline phosphatase reporter gene and an exogenous estrogen response element (ERE) luciferase reporter gene construct. We also assessed whether PAHs can induce a proliferative phenotype via estrogen receptor (ER)- and non-ER-regulated pathways. We demonstrate that, B[a]P can be metabolized in human endometrial cells into 3-OH-B[a]P and B[a]P-7,8-dione in sufficient amounts to activate ERs. We also show that only B[a]P-7,8-dione induces endometrial cell proliferation at concentrations lower than required to activate the ER, instead non-genomic signaling by the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway was responsible. This work indicates that human endometrial cells can metabolize PAHs into estrogenic metabolites which may induce cell proliferation through non-ER-regulated pathways.

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Marianna Minnetti, Valeria Hasenmajer, Riccardo Pofi, Mary Anna Venneri, Krystallenia I Alexandraki, and Andrea M Isidori

The circadian rhythm derives from the integration of many signals that shape the expression of clock-related genes in a 24-h cycle. Biological tasks, including cell proliferation, differentiation, energy storage, and immune regulation, are preferentially confined to specific periods. A gating system, supervised by the central and peripheral clocks, coordinates the endogenous and exogenous signals and prepares for transition to activities confined to periods of light or darkness. The fluctuations of cortisol and its receptor are crucial in modulating these signals. Glucocorticoids and the autonomous nervous system act as a bridge between the suprachiasmatic master clock and almost all peripheral clocks. Additional peripheral synchronizing mechanisms including metabolic fluxes and cytokines stabilize the network. The pacemaker is amplified by peaks and troughs in cortisol and their response to food, activity, and inflammation. However, when the glucocorticoid exposure pattern becomes chronically flattened at high- (as in Cushing’s syndrome) or low (as in adrenal insufficiency) levels, the system fails. While endocrinologists are well aware of cortisol rhythm, too little attention has been given to interventions aimed at restoring physiological cortisol fluctuations in adrenal disorders. However, acting on glucocorticoid levels may not be the only way to restore clock-related activities. First, a counterregulatory mechanism on the glucocorticoid receptor itself controls signal transduction, and second, melatonin and/or metabolically active drugs and nutrients could also be used to modulate the clock. All these aspects are described herein, providing some insights into the emerging role of chronopharmacology, focusing on glucocorticoid excess and deficiency disorders.

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Yuriko Sakai, Hideyuki Arie, Yinhua Ni, Fen Zhuge, Liang Xu, Guanliang Chen, Naoto Nagata, Takuya Suzuki, Shuichi Kaneko, Tsuguhito Ota, and Mayumi Nagashimada

Intestinal mucosal barrier dysfunction is closely related to the pathogenesis of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Gut immunity has been recently demonstrated to regulate gut barrier function. The Lactobacillus pentosus strain S-PT84 activates helper T cells and natural killer/natural killer T cells. In this study, we examined the effect of S-PT84 on NASH progression induced by high-cholesterol/high-fat diet (CL), focusing on the immune responses involved in gut barrier function. C57BL/6 mice were fed a normal chow or CL diet with or without 1 × 1010 S-PT84 for 22 weeks. S-PT84 administration improved hepatic steatosis by decreasing triglyceride and free fatty acid levels by 34% and 37%, respectively. Furthermore, S-PT84 inhibited the development of hepatic inflammation and fibrosis, suppressed F4/80+ macrophage/Kupffer cell infiltration, and reduced liver hydroxyproline content. Administration of S-PT84 alleviated hyperinsulinemia and enhanced hepatic insulin signalling. Compared with mice fed CL diet, mice fed CL+S-PT84 had 71% more CD11c-CD206+ M2 macrophages, resulting in a significantly decreased M1/M2 macrophage ratio in the liver. Moreover, S-PT84 inhibited the CL diet-mediated increase in intestinal permeability. Additionally, S-PT84 reduced the recruitment of interleukin-17-producing T cells and increased the levels of intestinal tight junction proteins, including zonula occludens-1, occludin, claudin-3, and claudin-7. In conclusion, our findings suggest that S-PT84 attenuates diet-induced insulin resistance and subsequent NASH development by maintaining gut permeability. Thus, S-PT84 represents a feasible approach to prevent the development of NASH.

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Gregory S Y Ong, Timothy J Cole, Gregory H Tesch, James Morgan, Jennifer K Dowling, Ashley Mansell, Peter J Fuller, and Morag J Young

MR activation in macrophages is critical for the development of cardiac inflammation and fibrosis. We previously showed that MR activation modifies macrophage pro-inflammatory signalling, changing the cardiac tissue response to injury via both direct gene transcription and JNK/AP-1 second messenger pathways. In contrast, MR-mediated renal electrolyte homeostasis is critically determined by DNA-binding-dependent processes. Hence, ascertaining the relative contribution of MR actions via DNA binding or alternative pathways on macrophage behaviour and cardiac inflammation may provide therapeutic opportunities which separate the cardioprotective effects of MR antagonists from their undesirable renal potassium-conserving effects. We developed new macrophage cell lines either lacking MR or harbouring a mutant MR incapable of DNA binding. Western blot analysis demonstrated that MR DNA binding is required for lipopolysaccharide (LPS), but not phorbol 12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA), induction of the MAPK/pJNK pathway in macrophages. Quantitative RTPCR for pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic targets revealed subsets of LPS- and PMA-induced genes that were either enhanced or repressed by the MR via actions that do not always require direct MR-DNA binding. Analysis of the MR target gene and profibrotic factor MMP12 identified promoter elements that are regulated by combined MR/MAPK/JNK signalling. Evaluation of cardiac tissue responses to an 8-day DOC/salt challenge in mice selectively lacking MR DNA-binding in macrophages demonstrated levels of inflammatory markers equivalent to WT, indicating non-DNA binding-dependent MR signalling in macrophages is sufficient for DOC/salt-induced tissue inflammation. Our data demonstrate that the MR regulates a macrophage pro-inflammatory phenotype and cardiac tissue inflammation, partially via pathways that do not require DNA binding.

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Juliana I Candelaria, Maria B Rabaglino, and Anna C Denicol

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is required for ovarian antral folliculogenesis and steroidogenesis, and there is increasing evidence that it may play critical roles in preantral follicle development. We hypothesized that preantral follicles began responding to FSH as early as the primary stage of development. Our objectives were to establish whether the FSH receptor (FSHR) was expressed in bovine preantral follicles and to determine the effects of FSH in these follicles and the surrounding ovarian tissue. Preantral follicles were isolated from bovine ovaries and subjected to immunolocalization of FSHR. Ovarian cortical strips were cultured with FSH or vehicle for 2 or 4 days and subjected to RNA sequencing, hematoxylin/eosin staining and immunostaining for p42/44 MAPK. Finally, cortical strips were cultured for four days with FSH before western blot analysis of total and phosphorylated p42/44 MAPK, and total aromatase. We found greater FSHR labeling intensity per cell in preantral follicles at the primary stage compared to other stages (P < 0.05). FSH upregulated genes involved in energy metabolism and MAPK signaling and downregulated genes related to phagosome and allograft rejection in the ovarian cortex. Preantral follicles cultured in situ with FSH had greater expression of total p42/44 MAPK (P < 0.05), but no difference was detected in whole tissue western blot for phosphorylated p42/44 MAPK or aromatase. We conclude that the FSHR is expressed in preantral follicles as early as the primary stage of development, and that FSH upregulates cell metabolism and activates MAPK signaling pathways in preantral follicles.

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Katherine N Makowski, Michael J Kreisman, Richard B McCosh, Ali A Raad, and Kellie M Breen

Peripheral immune/inflammatory challenges rapidly disrupt reproductive neuroendocrine function. This inhibition is considered to be centrally mediated via suppression of gonadotropin-releasing hormone secretion, yet the neural pathway(s) for this effect remains unclear. We tested the hypothesis that interleukin-1β inhibits pulsatile luteinizing hormone secretion in female mice via inhibition of arcuate kisspeptin cell activation, a population of neurons considered to be the gonadotropin-releasing hormone pulse generator. In the first experiment, we determined that the inhibitory effect of peripheral interleukin-1β on luteinizing hormone secretion was enhanced by estradiol. We next utilized serial sampling and showed that interleukin-1β reduced the frequency of luteinizing hormone pulses in ovariectomized female mice treated with estradiol. The interleukin-1β-induced suppression of pulse frequency was associated with reduced kisspeptin cell activation, as determined by c-Fos coexpression, but not as a result of impaired responsiveness to kisspeptin challenge. Together, these data suggest an inhibitory action of interleukin-1β upstream of kisspeptin receptor activation. We next tested the hypothesis that estradiol enhances the activation of brainstem nuclei responding to interleukin-1β. We determined that the expression of interleukin-1 receptor was elevated within the brainstem following estradiol. Interleukin-1β induced c-Fos in the area postrema, ventrolateral medulla, and nucleus of the solitary tract; however, the response was not increased by estradiol. Collectively, these data support a neural mechanism whereby peripheral immune/inflammatory stress impairs reproductive neuroendocrine function via inhibition of kisspeptin cell activation and reduced pulsatile luteinizing hormone secretion. Furthermore, these findings implicate the influence of estradiol on peripherally mediated neural pathways such as those activated by peripheral cytokines.

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Kristen E Syring, Karin J Bosma, Slavina B Goleva, Kritika Singh, James K Oeser, Christopher A Lopez, Eric P Skaar, Owen P McGuinness, Lea K Davis, David R Powell, and Richard M O’Brien

SLC30A8 encodes the zinc transporter ZnT8. SLC30A8 haploinsufficiency protects against type 2 diabetes (T2D), suggesting that ZnT8 inhibitors may prevent T2D. We show here that, while adult chow fed Slc30a8 haploinsufficient and knockout (KO) mice have normal glucose tolerance, they are protected against diet-induced obesity (DIO), resulting in improved glucose tolerance. We hypothesize that this protection against DIO may represent one mechanism whereby SLC30A8 haploinsufficiency protects against T2D in humans and that, while SLC30A8 is predominantly expressed in pancreatic islet beta cells, this may involve a role for ZnT8 in extra-pancreatic tissues. Consistent with this latter concept we show in humans, using electronic health record-derived phenotype analyses, that the ‘C’ allele of the non-synonymous rs13266634 SNP, which confers a gain of ZnT8 function, is associated not only with increased T2D risk and blood glucose, but also with increased risk for hemolytic anemia and decreased mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH). In Slc30a8 KO mice, MCH was unchanged but reticulocytes, platelets and lymphocytes were elevated. Both young and adult Slc30a8 KO mice exhibit a delayed rise in insulin after glucose injection, but only the former exhibit increased basal insulin clearance and impaired glucose tolerance. Young Slc30a8 KO mice also exhibit elevated pancreatic G6pc2 gene expression, potentially mediated by decreased islet zinc levels. These data indicate that the absence of ZnT8 results in a transient impairment in some aspects of metabolism during development. These observations in humans and mice suggest the potential for negative effects associated with T2D prevention using ZnT8 inhibitors.

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Rodrigo Martins Pereira, Kellen Cristina da Cruz Rodrigues, Marcella Ramos Sant'Ana, Guilherme Francisco Peruca, Ana Paula Morelli, Fernando M Simabuco, Adelino S. R. da Silva, Dennys Esper Cintra, Eduardo Rochete Ropelle, José Rodrigo Pauli, and Leandro Pereira de Moura

Obesity is linked to a reduction in the control of hepatic glucose production, which is the primary mechanism related to fasting hyperglycemia and the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). The main system involved in hepatic gluconeogenesis synthesis is controlled by pyruvate carboxylase (PC), which increases in obesity conditions. Recently, we showed that short-term strength training is an important tool against obesity-induced hyperglycemia. As aerobic exercise can reduce the hepatic PC content of obese animals, we hypothesized that strength exercise can also decrease this gluconeogenic enzyme. Therefore, this study investigated whether the metabolic benefits promoted by short-term strength training are related to changes in hepatic PC content. Swiss mice were divided into three groups: lean control (Ctl), obese sedentary (ObS), and obese short-term strength training (STST). The STST protocol was performed through one session/day for 15 days. The obese exercised animals had reduced hyperglycemia and insulin resistance. These results were related to better control of hepatic glucose production and hepatic insulin sensitivity. Our bioinformatics analysis showed that hepatic PC mRNA levels have positive correlations with glucose levels and adiposity, and negative correlations with locomotor activity and muscle mass. We also found that hepatic mRNA levels are related to lipogenic markers in the liver. Finally, we observed that the obese animals had an increased hepatic PC level; however, STST was efficient in reducing its amount. In conclusion, we provide insights into new biomolecular mechanisms by showing how STST is an efficient tool against obesity-related hyperglycemia and T2DM, even without body weight changes.

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Hans-Peter Holthoff, Kerstin Uhland, Gabor Laszlo Kovacs, Andreas Reimann, Kristin Adler, Clara Wenhart, and Martin Ungerer

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, which is characterized by stimulatory antibodies targeting the human thyrotropin receptor (TSHR), resulting in hyperthyroidism and multiple organ damage. We systematically investigated monomeric and dimeric fusion proteins of the A subunit of TSHR for efficacy to bind to the monoclonal patient antibody M22, to interact with Graves’ patient serum samples, and to impact on anti-TSHR antibody titers, hyperthyroidism, tachycardia and other in vivo read-outs in a long-term mouse model of Graves’ disease induced by immunization with a recombinant adenovirus encoding TSHR A. Binding assays and functional measurements of TSHR-dependent cAMP formation showed binding of monomeric TSHR-His and dimeric TSHR-Fc to the anti-TSHR antibody M22 at low-effective concentrations (EC50 of 5.7 nmol/L and 8.6 nmol/L) and inhibition of the effects of this antibody at high efficiencies (IC50 values of 16–20 nmol/L). Both proteins also block the effects of polyclonal anti-TSHR antibodies occurring in Graves’ patient sera with somewhat lower average efficiencies (mean IC50 values of 29 nmol/L and 68 nmol/L). However, in vivo characterization of epicutaneous patch administrations of TSHR-Fc at doses of 0.3 and 0.6 mg/kg body weight in a murine Graves’ disease model did not result in any improvement of disease parameters. In conclusion, high affinity binding of TSHR-Fc to pathological anti-TSHR antibodies was not matched by efficacy to improve Graves’ disease parameter in a long-term mouse model.

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Jessica L Huang, Sharon Lee, Pelle Hoek, Talitha van der Meulen, Richard Van, and Mark O Huising

There is great interest in generating functionally mature beta cells from stem cells, as loss of functional beta cell mass contributes to the pathophysiology of diabetes. Identifying markers of beta cell maturity is therefore very helpful for distinguishing stem cells that have been successfully differentiated into fully mature beta cells from stem cells that did not. Urocortin 3 (UCN3) is a peptide hormone whose expression is associated with the acquisition of functional maturity in beta cells. The onset of its expression occurs after other beta cell maturity markers are already expressed and its loss marks the beginning of beta cell dedifferentiation. Its expression pattern is therefore tightly correlated with beta cell maturity. While this makes UCN3 an excellent marker of beta cell maturity, it is not established whether UCN3 is required for beta cell maturation. Here, we compared gene expression and function of beta cells from Ucn3-null mice relative to WT mice to determine whether beta cells are functionally mature in the absence of UCN3. Our results show that genetic deletion of Ucn3 does not cause a loss of beta cell maturity or an increase in beta cell dedifferentiation. Furthermore, virgin beta cells, first identified as insulin-expressing, UCN3-negative beta cells, can still be detected at the islet periphery in Ucn3-null mice. Beta cells from Ucn3-null mice also exhibit normal calcium response when exposed to high glucose. Collectively, these observations indicate that UCN3 is an excellent mature beta cell marker that is nevertheless not necessary for beta cell maturation.