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Meredith A Kelleher
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Hannah K Palliser
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David W Walker Mothers and Babies Research Centre, Department of Physiology, John Hunter Hospital and School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales 2310, Australia

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Jonathan J Hirst
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Progesterone and its neuroactive metabolite, allopregnanolone, are present in high concentrations during pregnancy, but drop significantly following birth. Allopregnanolone influences foetal arousal and enhances cognitive and behavioural recovery following traumatic brain injury. Inhibition of allopregnanolone synthesis increases cell death in foetal animal brains with experimental hypoxia. We hypothesised that complications during pregnancy, such as early or preterm loss of placental steroids and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), would disrupt the foetal neurosteroid system, contributing to poor neurodevelopmental outcomes. This study aimed to investigate the effects of chronic inhibition of allopregnanolone synthesis before term and IUGR on developmental processes in the foetal brain. Guinea pig foetuses were experimentally growth restricted at mid-gestation and treated with finasteride, an inhibitor of allopregnanolone synthesis. Finasteride treatment reduced foetal brain allopregnanolone concentrations by up to 75% and was associated with a reduction in myelin basic protein (MBP) (P=0.001) and an increase in glial fibrillary acidic protein expression in the subcortical white matter brain region (P<0.001). IUGR resulted in decreased MBP expression (P<0.01) and was associated with a reduction in the expression of steroidogenic enzyme 5α-reductase (5αR) type 2 in the foetal brain (P=0.061). Brain levels of 5αR1 were higher in male foetuses (P=0.008). Both IUGR and reduced foetal brain concentrations of allopregnanolone were associated with altered expression of myelination and glial cell markers within the developing foetal brain. The potential role of neurosteroids in protecting and regulating neurodevelopmental processes in the foetal brain may provide new directions for treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders in infants who are exposed to perinatal insults and pathologies.

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Xiong Weng Division of Cellular and Systems Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK

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Hao Jiang Gene Expression and Regulation, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK

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David J Walker Division of Cellular and Systems Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK

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Houjiang Zhou MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, School of Life Sciences, Dundee, Scotland, UK

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De Lin Drug Discovery Unit, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK

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Jing Wang Science for Life Laboratory, Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences (BKV), Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

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Li Kang Division of Cellular and Systems Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK

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CD44, a cell surface adhesion receptor and stem cell biomarker, is recently implicated in chronic metabolic diseases. Ablation of CD44 ameliorates adipose tissue inflammation and insulin resistance in obesity. Here, we investigated cell type-specific CD44 expression in human and mouse adipose tissue and further studied how CD44 in preadipocytes regulates adipocyte function. Using Crispr Cas9-mdediated gene deletion and lentivirus-mediated gene re-expression, we discovered that deletion of CD44 promotes adipocyte differentiation and adipogenesis, whereas re-expression of CD44 abolishes this effect and decreases insulin responsiveness and adiponectin secretion in 3T3-L1 cells. Mechanistically, CD44 does so via suppressing Pparg expression. Using quantitative proteomics analysis, we further discovered that cell cycle-regulated pathways were mostly decreased by deletion of CD44. Indeed, re-expression of CD44 moderately restored expression of proteins involved in all phases of the cell cycle. These data were further supported by increased preadipocyte proliferation rates in CD44-deficient cells and re-expression of CD44 diminished this effect. Our data suggest that CD44 plays a crucial role in regulating adipogenesis and adipocyte function possibly through regulating PPARγ and cell cycle-related pathways. This study provides evidence for the first time that CD44 expressed in preadipocytes plays key roles in regulating adipocyte function outside immune cells where CD44 is primarily expressed. Therefore, targeting CD44 in (pre)adipocytes may provide therapeutic potential to treat obesity-associated metabolic complications.

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