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Weixia Han, Chen Wang, Zhifen Yang, Lin Mu, Ming Wu, Nan Chen, Chunyang Du, Huijun Duan and Yonghong Shi

Renal fibrosis is the major pathological characteristic of diabetic nephropathy (DN). Reportedly, increased SIRT1 expression played a renal protective role in animal models of DN. This study was designed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the protective effects of SRT1720, an SIRT1 activator, against diabetes-induced renal fibrosis. Type 2 diabetic mice (db/db) were treated with SRT1720 (50 mg/kg/day) by gavage for 10 weeks. Renal proximal tubular epithelial cells (HK-2 cells) were treated with high glucose (HG, 30 mM) in the presence or absence of SRT1720 (2.5 µM) for 48 h. We observed that impaired SIRT1 expression and activity were restored by SRT1720 administration in db/db mice as well as in HG-treated HK-2 cells. Moreover, SRT1720 administration improved the renal function, attenuated glomerular hypertrophy, mesangial expansion, glomerulosclerosis and interstitial fibrosis and inhibited TGFB1 and CTGF expressions and nuclear factor κB (NF-KB) activation in db/db mice. Similarly, HG-induced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) and collagen IV and fibronectin expressions were inhibited in SRT1720-treated HK-2 cells. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that SRT1720 suppressed HIF1A, GLUT1 and SNAIL expressions both in vivo and in vitro. Furthermore, HIF1A or GLUT1 knockdown effectively abrogated HG-induced EMT and collagen IV and fibronectin expressions in HK-2 cells. These findings suggest that SRT1720 prevented diabetes-induced renal fibrosis via the SIRT1/HIF1A/GLUT1/SNAIL pathway.

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Hong Xu, Yang Zhou, Yongxia Liu, Jian Ping, Qiyang Shou, Fangming Chen and Ru Ruo

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and cirrhosis are strongly associated with insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. To date, the influence of metformin on glycogen synthesis in the liver is controversial. Limited studies have evaluated the effect of metformin on hepatic insulin signaling pathway in vivo. In this study, an insulin-resistant rat model of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and cirrhosis was developed by high-fat and high-sucrose diet feeding in combination with subcutaneous injection of carbon tetrachloride. Liver tissues of the model rats were featured with severe steatosis and cirrhosis, accompanied by impaired liver function and antioxidant capacity. The glucose tolerance was impaired, and the index of insulin resistance was increased significantly compared with the control. The content of hepatic glycogen was dramatically decreased. The expression of insulin receptor β (IRβ); phosphorylations of IRβ, insulin receptor substrate 2 (IRS2), and Akt; and activities of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and glycogen synthase (GS) in the liver were significantly decreased, whereas the activities of glycogen synthase kinase 3α (GSK3α) and glycogen phosphorylase a (GPa) were increased. Metformin treatment remarkably improved liver function, alleviated lipid peroxidation and histological damages of the liver, and ameliorated glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. Metfromin also significantly upregulated the expression of IRβ; increased the phosphorylations of IRβ, IRS2, and Akt; increased the activities of PI3K and GS; and decreased GSK3α and GPa activities. In conclusion, our study suggests that metformin upregulates IRβ expression and the downstream IRS2/PI3K/Akt signaling transduction, therefore, to increase hepatic glycogen storage and improve insulin resistance. These actions may be attributed to the improved liver histological alterations by metformin.

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Chanika Phornphutkul, Ke-Ying Wu, Xu Yang, Qian Chen and Philip A Gruppuso

Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) is a critical regulator of skeletal growth. While IGF-I has been shown to be a potent chondrocyte mitogen in vitro, its role in chondrocyte differentiation is less well characterized. We chose to study the action of IGF-I on an accepted model of chondrocyte differentiation, the ATDC5 cell line. Insulin concentrations sufficiently high to interact with the IGF-I receptor are routinely used to induce ATDC5 cells to differentiate. Therefore, we first examined the ability of IGF-I to promote chondrocyte differentiation at physiological concentrations. IGF-I could induce differentiation of these cells at concentrations below 10 nM. However, increasing IGF-I concentrations were less potent at inducing differentiation. We hypothesized that mitogenic effects of IGF-I might inhibit its differentiating effects. Indeed, the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-pathway inhibitor PD98059 inhibited ATDC5 cell DNA synthesis while enhancing differentiation. This suggested that the ability of IGF-I to promote both proliferation and differentiation might require that its signaling be modulated through the differentiation process. We therefore compared IGF-I-mediated ERK activation in proliferating and hypertrophic chondrocytes. IGF-I potently induced ERK activation in proliferating cells, but minimal ERK response was seen in hypertrophic cells. In contrast, IGF-I-mediated Akt activation was unchanged by differentiation, indicating intact upstream IGF-I receptor signaling. Similar findings were observed in the RCJ3.1C5.18 chondrogenic cell line and in primary chick chondrocytes. We conclude that IGF-I promotes both proliferation and differentiation of chondrocytes and that the differentiation effects of IGF-I may require uncoupling of signaling to the ERK pathway.

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KH Lin, HY Lee, CH Shih, CC Yen, SL Chen, RC Yang and CS Wang

Thyroid hormones (THs) regulate growth, development, differentiation and metabolic processes by interacting and activating thyroid hormone receptors (TRs). Although much progress has been made in our understanding of the transcriptional regulation of many TR target genes, little is known of the regulation of plasma protein gene expression by TRs. To investigate the role of TRs in plasma protein expression we used human hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines and carried out cDNA microarray analysis. Our results indicate that several plasma proteins including transferrin, prothrombin, angiotensinogen, haptoglobin, alpha-2-HS-glycoprotein alpha and beta chain, complement, lipoproteins and fibrinogen are up-regulated by THs. Furthermore, clusterin, alpha-2-macroglobulin precursor, prothymosin alpha and alpha-fetoprotein were found to be down-regulated by THs.Transferrin, an iron-binding protein expressed in all mammals, and mainly synthesized in the liver, was investigated further. Immunoblot and Northern blot analyses revealed that exposure of HepG2-TRalpha1 sub-lines and HepG2-Neo cells to tri-iodothyronine (T(3)) induced time- and dose-dependent increases in the abundance of transferrin mRNA and protein, with the extent of these effects correlating with the level of expression of TRalpha1. Nuclear run-on experiments indicate that this induction is functioning at the transcriptional level. Moreover, cyclohexamide treatment did not eliminate the induction of transferrin by TH. Thus, our results suggest that the induction of transferrin by TH is direct and may in fact be mediated by an as yet unidentified response element in the promoter region.

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Wenbin Shang, Ying Yang, Libin Zhou, Boren Jiang, Hua Jin and Mingdao Chen

A series of clinical trials and animal experiments have demonstrated that ginseng and its major active constituent, ginsenosides, possess glucose-lowering action. In our previous study, ginsenoside Rb1 has been shown to regulate peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ activity to facilitate adipogenesis of 3T3-L1 cells. However, the effect of Rb1 on glucose transport in insulin-sensitive cells and its molecular mechanism need further elucidation. In this study, Rb1 significantly stimulated basal and insulin-mediated glucose uptake in a time- and dose-dependent manner in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and C2C12 myotubes; the maximal effect was achieved at a concentration of 1 μM and a time of 3 h. In adipocytes, Rb1 promoted GLUT1 and GLUT4 translocations to the cell surface, which was examined by analyzing their distribution in subcellular membrane fractions, and enhanced translocation of GLUT4 was confirmed using the transfection of GLUT4-green fluorescence protein in Chinese Hamster Ovary cells. Meanwhile, Rb1 increased the phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate-1 and protein kinase B (PKB), and stimulated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) activity in the absence of the activation of the insulin receptor. Rb1-induced glucose uptake as well as GLUT1 and GLUT4 translocations was inhibited by the PI3K inhibitor. These results suggest that ginsenoside Rb1 stimulates glucose transport in insulin-sensitive cells by promoting translocations of GLUT1 and GLUT4 by partially activating the insulin signaling pathway. These findings are useful in understanding the hypoglycemic and anti-diabetic properties of ginseng and ginsenosides.

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Dan Li, Yan Ji, Chunlan Zhao, Yapeng Yao, Anlan Yang, Honghong Jin, Yang Chen, Mingjun San, Jing Zhang, Mingjiao Zhang, Luqing Zhang, Xuechao Feng and Yaowu Zheng

Oxytocin receptor (OXTR) is a G-protein-coupled receptor and known for regulation of maternal and social behaviors. Null mutation (Oxtr−/−) leads to defects in lactation due to impaired milk ejection and maternal nurturing. Overexpression of OXTR has never been studied. To define the functions of OXTR overexpression, a transgenic mouse model that overexpresses mouse Oxtr under β-actin promoter was developed (++ Oxtr). ++ Oxtr mice displayed advanced development and maturation of mammary gland, including ductal distention, enhanced secretory differentiation and early milk production at non-pregnancy and early pregnancy. However, ++ Oxtr dams failed to produce adequate amount of milk and led to lethality of newborns due to early involution of mammary gland in lactation. Mammary gland transplantation results indicated the abnormal mammary gland development was mainly from hormonal changes in ++ Oxtr mice but not from OXTR overexpression in mammary gland. Elevated OXTR expression increased prolactin-induced phosphorylation and nuclear localization of STAT5 (p-STAT5), and decreased progesterone level, leading to early milk production in non-pregnant and early pregnant females, whereas low prolactin and STAT5 activation in lactation led to insufficient milk production. Progesterone treatment reversed the OXTR-induced accelerated mammary gland development by inhibition of prolactin/p-STAT5 pathway. Prolactin administration rescued lactation deficiency through STAT5 activation. Progesterone plays a negative role in OXTR-regulated prolactin/p-STAT5 pathways. The study provides evidence that OXTR overexpression induces abnormal mammary gland development through progesterone and prolactin-regulated p-STAT5 pathway.

Open access

Ya-Li Yang, Li-Rong Ren, Li-Feng Sun, Chen Huang, Tian-Xia Xiao, Bao-Bei Wang, Jie Chen, Brian A Zabel, Peigen Ren and Jian V Zhang

Chemerin, a chemokine, plays important roles in immune responses, inflammation, adipogenesis, and carbohydrate metabolism. Our recent research has shown that chemerin has an inhibitory effect on hormone secretion from the testis and ovary. However, whether G protein-coupled receptor 1 (GPR1), the active receptor for chemerin, regulates steroidogenesis and luteolysis in the corpus luteum is still unknown. In this study, we established a pregnant mare serum gonadotropin-human chorionic gonadotropin (PMSG-hCG) superovulation model, a prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) luteolysis model, and follicle and corpus luteum culture models to analyze the role of chemerin signaling through GPR1 in the synthesis and secretion of gonadal hormones during follicular/luteal development and luteolysis. Our results, for the first time, show that chemerin and GPR1 are both differentially expressed in the ovary over the course of the estrous cycle, with highest levels in estrus and metestrus. GPR1 has been localized to granulosa cells, cumulus cells, and the corpus luteum by immunohistochemistry (IHC). In vitro, we found that chemerin suppresses hCG-induced progesterone production in cultured follicle and corpus luteum and that this effect is attenuated significantly by anti-GPR1 MAB treatment. Furthermore, when the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway was blocked, the attenuating effect of GPR1 MAB was abrogated. Interestingly, PGF2α induces luteolysis through activation of caspase-3, leading to a reduction in progesterone secretion. Treatment with GPR1 MAB blocked the PGF2α effect on caspase-3 expression and progesterone secretion. This study indicates that chemerin/GPR1 signaling directly or indirectly regulates progesterone synthesis and secretion during the processes of follicular development, corpus luteum formation, and PGF2α-induced luteolysis.

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Harn-Shen Chen, Jia Jia, Hou-Fen Su, Hong-Da Lin, Jaw-Wen Chen, Shing-Jong Lin, Jia-Ying Yang, Hui-Chin Lai, Ruben Mestril and Ping H Wang

The 70 kDa heat shock protein family plays important cardiac protective roles against myocardial injuries. Reduced myocardial protection is a common feature of diabetic myocardium. This study was carried out to define the changes in the 70 kDa heat shock protein family in the myocardium in the of streptozotocin-diabetes rats, and to explore the mechanisms through which diabetes alters the abundance of Hsp70/Hsc70 in cardiac muscle. In the diabetic myocardium, the abundance of Hsc70 was significantly reduced. The abundance of Hsp70 was low in cardiac muscle and was not induced in the diabetic myocardium. Unlike Hsp60, Hsp70 and Hsc70 did not augment insulin-like growth factor-I receptor signaling in cardiac muscle cells. In cultured cardiomyocytes, insulin directly increased the abundance of Hsc70, whereas insulin could not modulate Hsp70. Treating diabetic rats with insulin restored myocardial Hsc70 level, but phlorizin treatment failed to restore myocardial Hsc70. These in vivo and in vitro studies showed that downregulation of Hsc70 in diabetic myocardium was secondary to insulin deficiency. Thus, insulin played a major role in maintaining adequate expression of Hsc70 in cardiac muscle.

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Qiong You, Zijun Wu, Bin Wu, Chang Liu, Ruina Huang, Li Yang, Runmin Guo, Keng Wu and Jingfu Chen

We previously reported that naringin (NRG) protects cardiomyocytes against high glucose (HG)-induced injuries by inhibiting the MAPK pathway. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that NRG prevents cardiomyocytes from hyperglycemia-induced insult through the inhibition of the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) pathway and the upregulation of ATP-sensitive K+ (KATP) channels. Our results showed that exposure of cardiomyocytes to HG for 24h markedly induced injuries, as evidenced by a decrease in cell viability and oxidative stress, and increases in apoptotic cells as well as the dissipation of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP). These injuries were markedly attenuated by the pretreatment of cells with either NRG or pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC) before exposure to HG. Furthermore, in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats and in HG-induced cardiomyocytes, the expression levels of caspase-3, bax and phosphorylated (p)-NF-κB p65 were increased. The increased protein levels were ameliorated by pretreatment with both NRG and PDTC. However, the expression levels of bcl-2 and KATP and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity were decreased by hyperglycemia; the expression level of Nox4 and the ADP/ATP ratio were increased by hyperglycemia. These hyperglycemia-induced indexes were inhibited by the pretreatment of cardiomyocytes with NRG or PDTC. In addition, in STZ-induced diabetic rats, we also observed that NRG or PDTC contributed to protecting mitochondrial injury and myocardium damage. This study demonstrated that NRG protects cardiomyocytes against hyperglycemia-induced injury by upregulating KATP channels in vitro and inhibiting the NF-κB pathway in vivo and in vitro.

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L Yang, CB Kuo, Y Liu, D Coss, X Xu, C Chen, ML Oster-Granite and AM Walker

During rat pregnancy initial high concentrations of prolactin (PRL) decline by about day 9, concomitant with an increase in the ratio of unmodified to phosphorylated PRL. The physiological significance of both the decline in total PRL and the change in ratio of the two PRLs is unknown. To test the importance of each, either unmodified PRL (U-PRL) or a molecular mimic of phosphorylated PRL (PP-PRL) were continuously administered to rats throughout pregnancy. A dose of 6 microg/24 h resulted in circulating concentrations of 50 ng/ml of each administered PRL and had little effect on the pregnancy itself. After birth, pups were killed and various tissues examined. In the pup lungs, exposure to additional PP-PRL caused a reduction in epithelial integrity and an increase in apoptosis, whereas exposure to additional U-PRL had beneficial, anti-apoptotic effects. In the heart, PP-PRL caused an apparent developmental delay, whereas U-PRL promoted tissue compaction. In the blood, U-PRL increased the number of mature red blood cells at the expense of white blood cell production. Within the white blood cell population, myelopoiesis was favored at the expense of lymphopoiesis. PP-PRL, in contrast, had a less dramatic influence on the hematopoietic compartment by promoting red blood cell maturation and granulocyte production. In the thymus, exposure to PP-PRL caused accumulation of apoptotic thymocytes in enlarged glands, whereas exposure to U-PRL resulted in smaller thymi. In the spleen, exposure to U-PRL increased cellularity, with the majority of cells belonging to the erythroid series - a finding consistent with increased red blood cells in the circulation. Exposure to PP-PRL was without discernible effect. In all of these tissues, the contrasting effects of the two PRLs indicate that the absolute concentration of PRL is not crucial, but that the ratio of U-PRL to PP-PRL has a profound effect on tissue development. In brown fat, both PRL preparations decreased the number of lipid droplets. This result is therefore probably a consequence of the increase in total PRL. The results of this study attest to the importance of the U-PRL:PP-PRL ratio normally present during pregnancy and have provided clues as to the possible pathogenesis of a variety of neonatal problems.