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Bernadette M Trojanowski, Heba H Salem, Heike Neubauer, Eric Simon, Martin Wagner, Rajkumar Dorajoo, Bernhard O Boehm, Leticia Labriola, Thomas Wirth and Bernd Baumann

Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) is a group of monogenetic forms of diabetes mellitus caused by mutations in genes regulating β-cell development and function. MODY represents a heterogeneous group of non-insulin-dependent diabetes arising in childhood or adult life. Interestingly, clinical heterogeneity in MODY patients like variable disease onset and severity is observed even among individual family members sharing the same mutation, an issue that is not well understood. As high blood glucose levels are a well-known factor promoting β-cell stress and ultimately leading to cell death, we asked whether additional β-cell stress might account for the occurrence of disease heterogeneity in mice carrying a MODY4 mutation. In order to challenge β-cells, we established a MODY4 animal model based on Pdx1 (pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1) haploinsufficiency, which allows conditional modulation of cell stress by genetic inhibition of the stress-responsive IKK/NF-κB signalling pathway. While Pdx1+/− mice were found glucose intolerant without progressing to diabetes, additional challenge of β-cell function by IKK/NF-κB inhibition promoted rapid diabetes development showing hyperglycaemia, hypoinsulinemia and loss of β-cell mass. Disease pathogenesis was characterized by deregulation of genes controlling β-cell homeostasis and function. Importantly, restoration of normal IKK/NF-κB signalling reverted the diabetic phenotype including normalization of glycaemia and β-cell mass. Our findings implicate that the avoidance of additional β-cell stress can delay a detrimental disease progression in MODY4 diabetes. Remarkably, an already present diabetic phenotype can be reversed when β-cell stress is normalized.

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Michal Silber, Irit Miller, Hadas Bar-Joseph, Ido Ben-Ami and Ruth Shalgi

PCOS is the most common endocrinopathy in women; associated with obesity and insulin resistance (IR). IR leads to accumulation of advanced-glycation-end-products (AGEs) and their receptor, RAGE. PCOS patients have increased levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), interleukin 6/8 (IL-6/8) and anti-Mϋllerian-hormone (AMH). PEDF is a secreted-glycoprotein known for its anti-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. We aimed to elucidate the role of PEDF in the pathogenesis and treatment of PCOS. We used a prenatal PCOS mouse model and fed the female offspring a high-fat diet, inducing metabolic PCOS (met.PCOS) characteristics. Female offspring were divided into three groups: control; met.PCOS; met.PCOS + recombinant PEDF (rPEDF). Met.PCOS mice gained more weight, had elevated serum IL-6 and higher mRNA levels of AMH, PEDF and RAGE in their granulosa cells (GCs) than met.PCOS + rPEDF mice. An in vitro Met.PCOS model in human GCs (KGN) line was induced by prolonged incubation with insulin/AGEs, causing development of IR. Under the same conditions, we observed an elevation of VEGF, IL-6/8 mRNAs, concomitantly with an increase in PEDF mRNA, intracellular protein levels, and an elevation of PEDF receptors (PEDF-Rs) mRNA and protein. Simultaneously, a reduction in the secretion of PEDF from GCs, was measured in the medium. The addition of rPEDF (5 nM) activated P38 signaling, implying that PEDF-Rs maintained functionality, and negated AGE-induced elevation of IL-6/8 and VEGF mRNAs. Decreased PEDF secretion may be a major contributor to hyperangiogenesis and chronic inflammation, which lie at the core of PCOS pathogenesis. rPEDF treatment may restore physiological angiogenesis inflammatory balance, thus suggesting a potential therapeutic role in PCOS.

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Akiko Mizokami, Satoru Mukai, Jing Gao, Tomoyo Kawakubo-Yasukochi, Takahito Otani, Hiroshi Takeuchi, Eijiro Jimi and Masato Hirata

Osteocalcin is a bone-derived hormone that in its uncarboxylated form (GluOC) plays an important role in glucose and energy metabolism by stimulating insulin secretion and pancreatic β-cell proliferation through its putative receptor GPRC6A. We previously showed that the effect of GluOC on insulin secretion is mediated predominantly by glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) released from intestinal endocrine cells in response to GluOC stimulation. Moreover, oral administration of GluOC was found to reduce the fasting blood glucose level, to improve glucose tolerance, and to increase the fasting serum insulin concentration and β-cell area in the pancreas in wild-type mice. We have now examined the effects of oral GluOC administration for at least 4 weeks in GLP-1 receptor-knockout mice. Such administration of GluOC in the mutant mice triggered glucose intolerance, enhanced gluconeogenesis and promoted both lipid accumulation in the liver as well as adipocyte hypertrophy and inflammation in adipose tissue. Furthermore, inactivation of GLP-1 receptor signaling in association with GluOC administration induced activation of the transcription factor FoxO1 and expression of its transcriptional coactivator PGC1α in the liver, likely accounting for the observed upregulation of gluconeogenic gene expression. Our results thus indicate that the beneficial metabolic effects of GluOC are dependent on GLP-1 receptor signaling.

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Erin Faught and Mathilakath M Vijayan

During early development, stress or exogenous glucocorticoid (GC) administration reduces body mass in vertebrates, and this is associated with the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) activation. Although GCs also activate the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), the physiological significance of MR activation on early developmental growth is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that activation of both GR and MR are required for postnatal growth suppression by GCs. Differential regulation of GR and MR activation was achieved by using ubiquitous GR- (GRKO) and MR- (MRKO) knockout zebrafish (Danio rerio) in combination with exogenous cortisol treatment. MR activation increased protein deposition in zebrafish larvae and also upregulated lepa and downregulated lepr transcript abundance. Cortisol treatment reduced body mass and protein content in the WT, and this corresponded with the upregulation of muscle proteolytic markers, including murf1 and redd1 by GR activation. The combined activation of MR and GR by cortisol also upregulated the gh and igf1 transcript abundance, and insulin expression compared to the WT. However, cortisol-mediated reduction in body mass and protein content required the activation of both MR and GR, as activation by GR alone (MRKO + cortisol) did not reduce the larval protein content. Collectively, our results indicate that MR activation favors protein deposition and GR activation stimulates proteolysis, while their combined activation is involved in cortisol-mediated growth suppression. Overall, this work provides insight into the physiological significance of MR activation in regulating protein deposition during early development at a systems level.

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Umberto Simeoni, Clive Osmond, Ricardo Garay, Christophe Buffat, Farid Boubred, Christophe Chagnaud, Elisabeth Jouve, Christine Audebert, Jean-Michel Antoine and Kent Thornburg

Low weight in early infancy is a known risk factor for cardio-metabolic syndrome in adult life. However, little is known either about developmental programming in subjects of normal birthweight or about events between the ages which separate early programming and the occurrence of disease at late adulthood. We tested the hypothesis that circulating concentrations of leptin, adiponectin and insulin in young, healthy adults, born with a birth size within the normal range, are influenced by early life growth patterns. In an observational study of 188 healthy volunteers aged 18–25 years (97 males, 91 females) we investigated the association of metabolic function with their birth size, their growth during childhood and their body composition. High plasma leptin in early adulthood, a risk factor for cardio-metabolic syndrome, was associated with low weight at age 2 years (correlation coefficient controlled for adult weight = −0.21, P < 0.01). It was also positively associated with pre-prandial insulin and with HOMA (Homeostasis Model Assessment) insulin resistance. Leptin, leptin-adiponectin ratio and insulin correlated with lean mass, fat mass and percent fat (P < 0.0001). In conclusion, high leptin in early adulthood was associated with both low weight at age 2 years and insulin resistance. We speculate that high leptin is developmentally programmed and can contribute to the association between low weight in early infancy and increased cardio-metabolic risk in adulthood in healthy subjects.

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Nan Li, James A Oakes, Karl-Heinz Storbeck, Vincent T Cunliffe and Nils P Krone

Cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage enzyme, encoded by the CYP11A1 gene, catalyzes the first and rate-limiting step of steroid hormone biosynthesis. Previous morpholino-knockdown studies in zebrafish suggested cyp11a2 is a functional equivalent of human CYP11A1 and is essential for interrenal steroidogenesis in zebrafish larvae. The role of Cyp11a2 in adult zebrafish, particularly in gonadal steroidogenesis, remains elusive. To explore the role of Cyp11a2 in adults, we developed zebrafish mutant lines by creating deletions in cyp11a2 using the CRISPR/Cas9 genomic engineering approach. Homozygous cyp11a2 mutant zebrafish larvae showed an upregulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–interrenal axis. Furthermore, these Cyp11a2-deficient zebrafish demonstrated profound glucocorticoid and androgen deficiencies. Cyp11a2 homozygotes only developed into males with feminized secondary sex characteristics. Adult cyp11a2 −/− mutant fish showed a lack of natural breeding behaviors. Histological characterization revealed disorganized testicular structure and significantly decreased numbers of mature spermatozoa. These findings are further supported by the downregulation of the expression of several pro-male genes in the testes of cyp11a2 homozygous zebrafish, including sox9a, dmrt1 and amh. Moreover, the spermatogonia markers nanos2 and piwil1 were upregulated, while the spermatocytes marker sycp3 and spermatids marker odf3b were downregulated in the testes of cyp11a2 homozygous mutants. Our expression analysis is consistent with our histological studies, suggesting that spermatogonia are the predominant cell types in the testes of cyp11a2 homozygous mutants. Our work thus demonstrates the crucial role of Cyp11a2 in interrenal and gonadal steroidogenesis in zebrafish larvae and adults.

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Caroline Alfaia, Vincent Robert, Kevin Poissenot, Yves Levern, Daniel Guillaume, Shel-Hwa Yeo, William H Colledge and Isabelle Franceschini

Kiss1 neurons of the arcuate (ARC) nucleus form an interconnected network of cells that communicate via neurokinin B (encoded by Tac2) and its receptor (encoded by Tacr3) and play key roles in the control of the reproductive axis through sex hormone-regulated synthesis and release of kisspeptin peptides (Kp, encoded by Kiss1). The aim of this study was to determine whether the Kiss1 cell population of the ARC already displays sexually dimorphic features at embryonic age E16.5 in mice. At this time of development, Kiss1-GFP- and Kp-immunoreactive cell bodies were restricted to the ARC and not found in the pre-optic area (POA). The Kiss1-GFP cell population was identical in size between sexes but had significantly lower Kiss1, Tac2, and Tacr3 mRNA levels and lower Kp-ir fiber density in the POA in male compared to female fetuses. Receptors for androgen (Ar) and estrogen (Esr1, Esr2, Gpr30) and the Cyp19a1 gene (encoding the estradiol-producing enzyme aromatase) transcripts were also detected in fetal ARC Kiss1-GFP cells with significant sex differences for Ar (higher in males) and Esr1 (higher in females). Functional studies on primary cultures of sorted fetal Kiss1-GFP cells revealed a significant negative effect of estradiol treatment on neurite outgrowth on the fourth day of culture in the female group specifically. We conclude that the ARC Kiss1 cell population is already sexually differentiated at E16.5 and that its morphogenetic development may be particularly vulnerable to estradiol exposure at this early developmental time.

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Tomasz Misztal, Patrycja Młotkowska, Elżbieta Marciniak and Anna Misztal

The verified hypothesis assumed that centrally administered neurosteroid, allopregnanolone (AL), could affect basal and/or stress-induced activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in sheep. Four groups (n = 6 each) of luteal-phase sheep were intracerebroventricularly infused for 3 days with a vehicle without stress (control); a vehicle treated with stressful stimuli (isolation and partial movement restriction) on the third day; AL (4 × 15 µg/60 µL/30 min, at 30-min intervals) treated with stressful stimuli, and AL alone. Simultaneously, the push-pull perfusion of the infundibular nucleus/median eminence and plasma sample collection were performed. After the experiment, the sheep were killed to collect the hypothalamic and anterior pituitary (AP) tissues. Stressful stimuli evoked an increase in the expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) mRNA in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN), and AVP receptor (V1b) and proopiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA in the AP; the concentrations of perfusate CRH, and plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol compared to controls. Conversely, the expression of the CRH receptor (CRHR1) mRNA in the AP was downregulated. AL decreased the expression of CRH and AVP mRNA in the PVN, and AVPRV1b and POMC mRNA in the AP in stressed sheep, compared to only stressed ones. There was also a reduction in perfusate CRH, and plasma ACTH and cortisol concentrations. AL alone decreased the expression of CRHR1 mRNA in the AP, and plasma cortisol concentration at the beginning of the collection period compared to controls. In conclusion, AL may function centrally as a suppressor of HPA axis activity in stressed sheep.