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Open access

Shiho Fujisaka, Yoshiyuki Watanabe, and Kazuyuki Tobe

The human body is inhabited by numerous bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and each part has a unique microbial community structure. The gastrointestinal tract harbors approximately 100 trillion strains comprising more than 1000 bacterial species that maintain symbiotic relationships with the host. The gut microbiota consists mainly of the phyla Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria. Of these, Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes constitute 70–90% of the total abundance. Gut microbiota utilize nutrients ingested by the host, interact with other bacterial species, and help maintain healthy homeostasis in the host. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that a breakdown of the microbial structure and its functions, known as dysbiosis, is associated with the development of allergies, autoimmune diseases, cancers, and arteriosclerosis, among others. Metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, also have a causal relationship with dysbiosis. The present review provides a brief overview of the general roles of the gut microbiota and their relationship with metabolic disorders.

Restricted access

Yingning Ji, Wei Liu, Yemin Zhu, Yakui Li, Ying Lu, Qi Liu, Lingfeng Tong, Lei Hu, Nannan Xu, Zhangbing Chen, Na Tian, Lifang Wu, Lian Zhu, Shuang Tang, Ping Zhang, and Xuemei Tong

Transketolase (TKT), an enzyme in the non-oxidative branch of the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), bi-directionally regulates the carbon flux between the PPP and glycolysis. Loss of TKT in adipose tissues decreased glycolysis and increased lipolysis and uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) expression, protecting mice from high-fat diet-induced obesity. However, the role of TKT in brown adipose tissue (BAT)-dependent glucose homeostasis under normal chow diet remains to be elucidated. We found that TKT ablation increased levels of glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4), promoting glucose uptake and glycogen accumulation in BAT. Using the streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic mouse model, we discovered that enhanced glucose uptake due to TKT deficiency in BAT contributed to decreasing blood glucose and weight loss, protecting mice from STZ-induced diabetes. Mechanistically, TKT deficiency decreased the level of thioredoxin-interacting protein, a known inhibitor for GLUT4, by decreasing NADPH and glutathione levels and inducing oxidative stress in BAT. Therefore, our data reveal a new role of TKT in regulating the anti-diabetic function of BAT as well as glucose homeostasis.

Free access

Brittany M Duggan, Daniel M Marko, Raveen Muzaffar, Darryl Y Chan, and Jonathan D Schertzer

Small molecule kinase inhibitors (SMKIs) are a class of therapeutic drugs that target protein kinases in diseases such as cancer. SMKIs are often designed to inhibit kinases involved in cell proliferation, but these drugs alter cell metabolism and the endocrine control of organismal metabolism. SMKI treatment in diabetic cancer patients reveals that certain SMKIs improve blood glucose levels and can mitigate insulin dependence or diabetic medication requirements in both type 1 diabetes (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Certain SMKIs can preserve functional β-cell mass and increase insulin secretion or insulin sensitivity. It is not yet clear why different SMKIs can have opposing effects on insulin and blood glucose. Understanding the therapeutic effects of these drugs in T1D and T2D is complicated by overlapping off-target effects of SMKIs. The potency of inhibition of the intended protein kinase and inhibition of multiple off-target kinases may underpin conflicting reports of how certain SMKIs alter blood glucose and insulin. We summarize the effects of SMKIs on the intended and off-target kinases that can alter blood glucose and insulin, including c-Abl, c-Kit, EGFR, and VEGF. Inhibition of PDGFRβ consistently lowers blood glucose in T1D and T2D. The effects of SMKIs on the kinases that regulate immune pathways, such as BTK and RIPKs, mediate many of the diverse effects of these drugs on metabolism. We highlight that inhibition of RIPK2 by SMKIs is a central node in metabolism that influences key metabolic pathways including lipolysis, blood glucose control, insulin secretion, and insulin resistance.

Open access

Eva M G Viho, Jan Kroon, Richard A Feelders, René Houtman, Elisabeth S R van den Dungen, Alberto M Pereira, Hazel J Hunt, Leo J Hofland, and Onno C Meijer

Glucocorticoid stress hormones are produced in response to hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activation. Glucocorticoids are essential for physiology and exert numerous actions via binding to the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Relacorilant is a highly selective GR antagonist currently undergoing a phase 3 clinical evaluation for the treatment of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome. It was found that increases in serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol concentrations after relacorilant treatment were substantially less than the increases typically observed with mifepristone, but it is unclear what underlies these differences. In this study, we set out to further preclinically characterize relacorilant in comparison to the classical but non-selective GR antagonist mifepristone. In human HEK-293 cells, relacorilant potently antagonized dexamethasone- and cortisol-induced GR signaling, and in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, relacorilant largely prevented the anti-inflammatory effects of dexamethasone. In mice, relacorilant treatment prevented hyperinsulinemia and immunosuppression caused by increased corticosterone exposure. Relacorilant treatment reduced the expression of classical GR target genes in peripheral tissues but not in the brain. In mice, relacorilant induced a modest disinhibition of the HPA axis as compared to mifepristone. In line with this, in mouse pituitary cells, relacorilant was generally less potent than mifepristone in regulating Pomc mRNA and ACTH release. This contrast between relacorilant and mifepristone is possibly due to the distinct transcriptional coregulator recruitment by the GR. In conclusion, relacorilant is thus an efficacious peripheral GR antagonist in mice with only modest disinhibition of the HPA axis, and the distinct properties of relacorilant endorse the potential of selective GR antagonist treatment for endogenous Cushing’s syndrome.

Free access

Lauren Brady and Peter S Nelson

Neuroendocrine prostate cancer, generally arising late in the disease trajectory, is a heterogeneous subtype that infers a worse prognosis and limited treatment options for patients. Characterization of the complex landscape of this disease subtype and scrutiny of the relationship between tumor cells and cells of the surrounding tumor microenvironment have aided in elucidating some of the mechanisms of neuroendocrine disease biology and have uncovered a multitude of signaling pathways involved in disease transdifferentiation under therapeutic selection. In this review, we discuss current efforts to better understand the heterogeneous landscape of neuroendocrine prostate cancer and summarize research efforts to define the interplay between tumor cells and the microenvironment, with an emphasis on the immune component. Research efforts have uncovered several potential therapeutic approaches that may improve disease outcomes for patients diagnosed with neuroendocrine prostate cancer, including the potential for combination immunotherapies. However, additional research is required to fully address and exploit the contribution of tumor cell and microenvironment heterogeneity in developing effective treatment strategies.

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Elliott S Neal, Vinod Kumar, Karin Borges, and James S M Cuffe

Vitamin B12 (B12) deficiency is common among individuals with diabetes mellitus, but it is unknown if B12 deficiency contributes to impaired glucose homeostasis in this disorder. Female Sprague–Dawley rats were assigned to a control or B12-deficient diet for 4 weeks. Intraperitoneal glucose tolerance tests were performed after 25 days, and blood and liver samples were collected for metabolic profiling. B12 deficiency resulted in a prediabetic-like phenotype characterised by glucose intolerance, a delayed peak in plasma insulin levels following a glucose challenge and increased ketogenesis. We attributed increased ketogenesis to reduced liver anaplerosis, which limited the availability of the TCA cycle intermediates citrate, succinate and succinyl-CoA. This was associated with increased Mut mRNA levels and citrate synthase activity in the liver. One-carbon metabolite levels were altered in plasma and the liver, which was linked to reduced methylation capacity, altered amino acid levels and elevated Slc7a5 mRNA expression. Plasma folate and biotin levels were reduced, as were the majority of B vitamins in the liver. Changes in these B12-dependent processes and reduced B vitamin amounts likely contributed to deficits in glucose handling. Our findings highlight that B12 deficiency may promote the development of metabolic disorders like diabetes mellitus and emphasise the importance of adequate B12 intake for metabolic health.

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Renea A Taylor, Mitchell Lawrence, and Gail Risbridger

There is longstanding interest in the role of androgens in the aetiology of prostate cancer, one of the most common malignancies worldwide. In this review, we reflect on the ways that knowledge of prostate development and hormone action have catalysed advances in the management of patients with prostate cancer. The use of hormone therapies to treat prostate cancer has changed significantly over time, including the emergence of androgen receptor signalling inhibitors (ARSI). These compounds have improved outcomes for patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), which was once considered ‘androgen-independent’, but is clearly still driven by androgen receptor signalling in many cases. There is also a need for new therapies to manage neuroendocrine prostate cancer, which is not responsive to hormonal agents. One of the major gaps is understanding how treatment-induced neuroendocrine prostate cancer emerges and whether it can be re-sensitised to treatment. Patient-derived models, including patient-derived xenografts (PDXs), will be instrumental in facilitating future discoveries in these areas. Developments in the use of PDXs have been fostered by lessons from the field of endocrinology, such as the role of stroma and hormones in normal and developmental tissues. Thus, there is ongoing reciprocity between the discoveries in endocrinology and advances in prostate cancer research and treatment.

Open access

Joanna Zamarbide Losada, Eric Sulpice, Stephanie Combe, Gilberto Serrano de Almeida, Damien A Leach, Josephine Ann Mun Yee Choo, Pantelitsa Protopapa, Mark P Hamilton, Sean Eric McGuire, Xavier Gidrol, Charlotte L Bevan, and Claire Emily Fletcher

Breast cancer (BC) is the most diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. In estrogen receptor (ER)-positive disease, anti-estrogens and aromatase inhibitors (AI) improve patient survival, however many patients develop resistance. Dysregulation of apoptosis is a common resistance mechanism, thus agents that can reinstate activity of apoptotic pathways represent promising therapeutics for advanced drug-resistant disease. Emerging targets in this scenario include microRNAs (miRs). To identify miRs modulating apoptosis in drug-responsive and -resistant BC, a high-throughput miR inhibitor screen was performed, followed by high-content screening microscopy for apoptotic markers. Validation demonstrated that miR-361-3p inhibitor significantly increases early apoptosis and reduces proliferation of drug-responsive (MCF7), plus AI-/antiestrogen-resistant derivatives (LTED, TamR, FulvR), and ER- cells (MDA-MB-231). Importantly, proliferation-inhibitory effects were observed in vivo in a xenograft model, indicating potential clinical application of miR-361-3p inhibition. RNA-seq of tumour xenografts identified FANCA as direct miR-361-3p target, and validation suggested miR-361-3p inhibitor effects might be mediated in part through FANCA modulation. Moreover, miR-361-3p inhibition resulted in p53-mediated G1 cell cycle arrest through activation of p21 and reduced BC invasion. Analysis of publicly-available datasets showed miR-361-3p expression is significantly higher in primary breast tumours versus paired normal tissue, and is associated with decreased overall survival. In addition, miR-361-3p inhibitor treatment of BC patient explants decreased levels of miR-361-3p and proliferation marker, Ki67. Finally, miR-361-3p inhibitor showed synergistic effects on BC growth when combined with PARP inhibitor, Olaparib. Together, these studies identify miR-361-3p inhibitor as potential new treatment for drug-responsive and -resistant advanced BC.

Free access

Sofie Dinesen, Alisar El-Faitarouni, and Louise T Dalgaard

Different types of small non-coding RNAs, especially miRNAs, may be found in the circulation, either protein-bound or enclosed in extracellular vesicles. During gestation, and particularly during gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), the levels of several miRNAs are altered. Worldwide the incidence of GDM is increasing, in part driven by the current obesity epidemic. This is a point of public health concern because offspring of women with GDM frequently suffer from short- and long-term complications of maternal GDM. This has prompted the investigation of whether levels of specific miRNA species, detected early in gestation, may be used as diagnostic or prognostic markers for the development of GDM. Here, we summarize the mechanisms of RNA secretion and review circulating miRNAs associated with GDM. Several miRNAs are associated with GDM: miR-29a-3p and miR-29b-3p are generally upregulated in GDM pregnancies, also when measured prior to the development of GDM, while miR-16-5p is consistently upregulated in GDM pregnancies, especially in late gestation. miR-330-3p in circulation is increased in late gestation GDM women, especially in those with poor insulin secretion. miR-17-5p, miR-19a/b-3p, miR-223-3p, miR-155-5p, miR-125-a/b-5p, miR-210-3p and miR-132 are also associated with GDM, but less so and with more contradictory results reported. There could be a publication bias as miRNAs identified early are investigated the most, suggesting that it is likely that additional, more recently detected miRNAs could also be associated with GDM. Thus, circulating miRNAs show potential as biomarkers of GDM diagnosis or prognosis, especially multiple miRNAs containing prediction algorithms show promise, but further studies are needed.