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Li Zhao, Chunfang Zhu, Meng Lu, Chi Chen, Xiaomin Nie, Buatikamu Abudukerimu, Kun Zhang, Zhiyuan Ning, Yi Chen, Jing Cheng, Fangzhen Xia, Ningjian Wang, Michael D Jensen and Yingli Lu

Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RAs) are an ideal therapy for type 2 diabetes and, as of recently, for obesity. In contrast to visceral fat, subcutaneous fat appears to be protective against metabolic diseases. Here, we aimed to explore whether liraglutide, a GLP-1RA, could redistribute body fat via regulating lipid metabolism in different fat depots. After being fed a high-fat diet for 8 weeks, 50 male Wistar and Goto-Kakizaki rats were randomly divided into a normal control group, a diabetic control group, low- and high-dose liraglutide-treated groups and a diet-control group. Different doses of liraglutide (400 μg/kg/day or 1200 μg/kg/day) or an equal volume of normal saline were administered to the rats subcutaneously once a day for 12 weeks. Body composition and body fat deposition were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and MRI. Isotope tracers were infused to explore lipid metabolism in different fat depots. Quantitative real-time PCR and Western blot analyses were conducted to evaluate the expression of adipose-related genes. The results showed that liraglutide decreased visceral fat and relatively increased subcutaneous fat. Lipogenesis was reduced in visceral white adipose tissue (WAT) but was elevated in subcutaneous WAT. Lipolysis was also attenuated, and fatty acid oxidation was enhanced. The mRNA expression levels of adipose-related genes in different tissues displayed similar trends after liraglutide treatment. In addition, the expression of browning-related genes was upregulated in subcutaneous WAT. Taken together, the results suggested that liraglutide potentially redistributes body fat and promotes browning remodeling in subcutaneous WAT to improve metabolic disorders.

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Ljupka Gligorovska, Biljana Bursać, Sanja Kovačević, Nataša Veličković, Gordana Matić and Ana Djordjevic

The macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a proinflammatory cytokine involved in inflammation, regulation of energy metabolism and glucocorticoid action. Chronic low-grade inflammation may be caused by fructose intake, contributing to visceral adipose tissue (VAT) dysfunction. Since MIF is a known antagonist of glucocorticoid signaling, and deregulated glucocorticoid signaling can contribute to lipid metabolism disturbances, we hypothesized that altered MIF signaling might underlie fructose-induced adiposity through glucocorticoid action. We analyzed physiological and biochemical parameters, adipose tissue histology, insulin sensitivity and lipid metabolism in WT and MIF−/− C57Bl/6J mice consuming 20% fructose solution for 9 weeks. Glucocorticoid prereceptor metabolism and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) protein level were examined in VAT, together with the expression of glucocorticoid-target genes involved in lipid metabolism. The expression of adipogenic and lipogenic transcriptional regulators peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARG) and sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1c (SREBP1c) was also assessed. Results showed disturbed insulin sensitivity in all MIF−/− mice, regardless of the diet. Mice on fructose diet had increased energy intake, but increased visceral adiposity and enlarged adipocytes were observed only in fructose-fed MIF−/− mice. Increased VAT corticosterone level and 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1, hexose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and GR protein levels were observed in the same animals, together with induced expression of examined lipogenic genes and accumulation of PPARG and SREBP1c. In conclusion, the results showed that dietary fructose was associated with increased visceral adiposity through activation of GR-regulated lipogenic genes, but only in the absence of MIF, which set the state of hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.

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Benoit Cox, Emma Laporte, Annelies Vennekens, Hiroto Kobayashi, Charlotte Nys, Indra Van Zundert, Hiroshi Uji-i, Alizée Vercauteren Drubbel, Benjamin Beck, Heleen Roose, Matteo Boretto and Hugo Vankelecom

The pituitary is the master endocrine gland, harboring stem cells of which the phenotype and role remain poorly characterized. Here, we established organoids from mouse pituitary with the aim to generate a novel research model to study pituitary stem cell biology. The organoids originated from the pituitary cells expressing the stem cell marker SOX2 were long-term expandable, displayed a stemness phenotype during expansive culture and showed specific hormonal differentiation ability, although limited, after subrenal transplantation. Application of the protocol to transgenically injured pituitary harboring an activated stem cell population, resulted in more numerous organoids. Intriguingly, these organoids presented with a cystic morphology, whereas the organoids from undamaged gland were predominantly dense and appeared more limited in expandability. Transcriptomic analysis revealed distinct epithelial phenotypes and showed that cystic organoids more resembled the pituitary phenotype, at least to an immature state, and displayed in vitro differentiation, although yet moderate. Organoid characterization further exposed facets of regulatory pathways of the putative stem cells of the pituitary and advanced new injury-activated markers. Taken together, we established a novel organoid research model revealing new insights into the identity and regulation of the putative pituitary stem cells. This organoid model may eventually lead to an interesting tool to decipher pituitary stem cell biology in both healthy and diseased gland.

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Romain Fontaine, Eirill Ager-Wick, Kjetil Hodne and Finn-Arne Weltzien

Luteinizing hormone (Lh) and follicle-stimulating hormone (Fsh) control reproduction in vertebrates. Using a transgenic line of medaka, in which green fluorescent protein expression is controlled by the endogenous lhb promotor, we studied development and plasticity of Lh cells, comparing juveniles and adults of both genders. Confocal imaging and 3D reconstruction revealed hypertrophy and hyperplasia of Lh cells in both genders from juvenile to adult stages. We show that Lh cell hyperplasia may be caused by recruitment of existing pituitary cells that start to produce lhb, as evidenced by time lapse recordings of primary pituitary cell cultures, and/or through Lh cell proliferation, demonstrated through a combination of 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine incubation experiments and proliferating cell nuclear antigen staining. Proliferating Lh cells do not belong to the classical type of multipotent stem cells, as they do not stain with anti-sox2. Estradiol exposure in vivo increased pituitary cell proliferation, particularly Lh cells, whereas pituitary lhb and gpa expression levels decreased. RNA-seq and in situ hybridization showed that Lh cells express two estrogen receptors, esr1 and esr2b, and the aromatase gene cyp19a1b, suggesting a direct effect of estradiol, and possibly androgens, on Lh cell proliferation. In conclusion, our study reveals a high degree of plasticity in the medaka Lh cell population, resulting from a combination of recruitment and cell proliferation.

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María Andrea Camilletti, Alejandra Abeledo-Machado, Jimena Ferraris, Pablo A Pérez, Erika Y Faraoni, Daniel Pisera, Silvina Gutierrez and Graciela Díaz-Torga

Ovarian steroids control a variety of physiological functions. They exert actions through classical nuclear steroid receptors, but rapid non-genomic actions through specific membrane steroid receptors have been also described. In this study, we demonstrate that the G-protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER) is expressed in the rat pituitary gland and, at a high level, in the lactotroph population. Our results revealed that ~40% of the anterior pituitary cells are GPER positive and ~35% of the lactotrophs are GPER positive. By immunocytochemical and immuno-electron-microscopy studies, we demonstrated that GPER is localized in the plasmatic membrane but is also associated to the endoplasmic reticulum in rat lactotrophs. Moreover, we found that local Gper expression is regulated negatively by 17β-estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4) and fluctuates during the estrus cycle, being minimal in proestrus. Interestingly, lack of ovarian steroids after an ovariectomy (OVX) significantly increased pituitary GPER expression specifically in the three morphologically different subtypes of lactotrophs. We found a rapid estradiol stimulatory effect on PRL secretion mediated by GPER, both in vitro and ex vivo, using a GPER agonist G1, and this effect was prevented by the GPER antagonist G36, demonstrating a novel role for this receptor. Then, the increased pituitary GPER expression after OVX could lead to alterations in the pituitary function as all three lactotroph subtypes are target of GPER ligand and could be involved in the PRL secretion mediated by GPER. Therefore, it should be taken into consideration in the response of the gland to an eventual hormone replacement therapy.

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Te Du, Liu Yang, Xu Xu, Xiaofan Shi, Xin Xu, Jian Lu, Jianlu Lv, Xi Huang, Jing Chen, Heyao Wang, Jiming Ye, Lihong Hu and Xu Shen

Vincamine, a monoterpenoid indole alkaloid extracted from the Madagascar periwinkle, is clinically used for the treatment of cardio-cerebrovascular diseases, while also treated as a dietary supplement with nootropic function. Given the neuronal protection of vincamine and the potency of β-cell amelioration in treating type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), we investigated the potential of vincamine in protecting β-cells and ameliorating glucose homeostasis in vitro and in vivo. Interestingly, we found that vincamine could protect INS-832/13 cells function by regulating G-protein-coupled receptor 40 (GPR40)/cAMP/Ca2+/IRS2/PI3K/Akt signaling pathway, while increasing glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) by modulating GPR40/cAMP/Ca2+/CaMKII pathway, which reveals a novel mechanism underlying GPR40-mediated cell protection and GSIS in INS-832/13 cells. Moreover, administration of vincamine effectively ameliorated glucose homeostasis in either HFD/STZ or db/db type 2 diabetic mice. To our knowledge, our current work might be the first report on vincamine targeting GPR40 and its potential in the treatment of T2DM.

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Dieuwertje C E Spaanderman, Mark Nixon, Jacobus C Buurstede, Hetty H C M Sips, Maaike Schilperoort, Eline N Kuipers, Emma A Backer, Sander Kooijman, Patrick C N Rensen, Natalie Z M Homer, Brian R Walker, Onno C Meijer and Jan Kroon

Glucocorticoid signaling is context dependent, and in certain scenarios, glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) are able to engage with other members of the nuclear receptor subfamily. Glucocorticoid signaling can exert sexually dimorphic effects, suggesting a possible interaction with androgen sex hormones. We therefore set out to determine the crosstalk between glucocorticoids and androgens in metabolic tissues including white adipose tissue, liver and brown adipose tissue. Thereto we exposed male C57BL/6J mice to elevated levels of corticosterone in combination with an androgen receptor (AR) agonist or an AR antagonist. Systemic and local glucocorticoid levels were determined by mass spectrometry, and tissue expression of glucocorticoid-responsive genes and protein was measured by RT-qPCR and Western blot, respectively. To evaluate crosstalk in vitro, cultured white and brown adipocytes were exposed to a combination of corticosterone and an AR agonist. We found that AR agonism potentiated transcriptional response to GR in vitro in white and brown adipocytes and in vivo in white and brown adipose tissues. Conversely, AR antagonism substantially attenuated glucocorticoid signaling in white adipose tissue and liver. In white adipose tissue, this effect could partially be attributed to decreased 11B-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1-mediated glucocorticoid regeneration upon AR antagonism. In liver, attenuated GR activity was independent of active glucocorticoid ligand levels. We conclude that androgen signaling modulates GR transcriptional output in a tissue-specific manner.

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Gen Chen, Xiangjuan Chen, Chao Niu, Xiaozhong Huang, Ning An, Jia Sun, Shuai Huang, Weijian Ye, Santie Li, Yingjie Shen, Jiaojiao Liang, Weitao Cong and Litai Jin

Baicalin is the major component found in Scutellaria baicalensis root, a widely used herb in traditional Chinese medicine, which exhibits strong anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-tumor activities. The present work was devoted to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the protective effects of Baicalin against diabetes-induced oxidative damage, inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Diabetic mice, induced by streptozotocin (STZ), were treated with intraperitoneal Baicalin injections. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were cultured either in normal glucose (NG, 5.5 mM) or high glucose (HG, 33 mM) medium in the presence or absence of Baicalin for 72 h. We observed an obvious inhibition of hyperglycemia-triggered oxidative damage and inflammation in HUVECs and diabetic aortal vasculature by Baicalin, along with restoration of hyperglycemia-impaired nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2) pathway activity. However, the protective effects of Baicalin almost completely abolished in HUVECs transduced with shRNA against Nrf2, but not with nonsense shRNA. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that HG decreased Akt and GSK3B phosphorylation, restrained nuclear export of Fyn and nuclear localization of Nrf2, blunted Nrf2 downstream target genes and subsequently induced oxidative stress in HUVECs. However, those destructive cascades were well prevented by Baicalin in HUVECs. Furthermore, LY294002 and ML385 (inhibitor of PI3K and Nrf2) attenuated Baicalin-mediated Nrf2 activation and the ability of facilitates angiogenesis in vivo and ex vivo. Taken together, the endothelial protective effect of Baicalin under hyperglycemia condition could be partly attributed to its role in downregulating reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inflammation via the Akt/GSK3B/Fyn-mediated Nrf2 activation.

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Jin Yu, Yuhuan Yang, Danying Zhang, Dongxia Zhai, Linyi Song, Zailong Cai and Chaoqin Yu

High androgen levels in patients suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be effectively reversed if the herb Scutellaria baicalensis is included in traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions. To characterize the effects of baicalin, extracted from S. baicalensis, on androgen biosynthesis in NCI-H295R cells and on hyperandrogenism in PCOS model rats and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms. The optimum concentration and intervention time for baicalin treatment of NCI-H295R cells were determined by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. The functional genes affected by baicalin were studied by gene expression profiling (GEP), and the key genes were identified using a dual luciferase assay, RNA interference technique, and genetic mutations. Besides, hyperandrogenic PCOS model rats were induced and confirmed before and after baicalin intervention. As a result, Baicalin decreased the testosterone concentrations in a dose-and time-dependent manner in NCI-H295R cells. GEP revealed that 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type II (HSD3B2) was the key enzyme of androgen biosynthesis, and baicalin inhibited the expression of HSD3B2 by regulating the binding of transcription factor GATA-binding factor 1 (GATA1) to the HSD3B2 promoter. Hyperandrogenic PCOS model rats treated with baicalin significantly reversed the high androgen levels of serum and the abnormal ovarian status, restored the estrous cyclicity, and decreased the expression of HSD3B2 in ovarian. In summary , our data revealed that GATA1 is an important transcription factor activating the HSD3B2 promoter in steroidogenesis, and baicalin potentially be an effective therapeutic agent for hyperandrogenism in PCOS by inhibiting the recruitment of GATA1 to the HSD3B2 promoter in ovarian tissue.