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A. M. Cowell


Over the last decade the role of excitatory amino acids (EAAs) in the central nervous system has been the focus of much research and there is now widespread evidence that EAAs are critical to a number of aspects of brain function, such as long term potentiation and neural degeneration. They exert their effects through a variety of different receptor subtypes which have been classified on the basis of selective agonist and antagonist actions as (1) N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors, (2) kainic acid (KA) receptors, (3) 2-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazol propionic acid (AMPA) receptors, which were originally named quisqualic acid (QA) receptors because they are also activated by QA, (4) amino-4-phosphobutyric acid (L-AP-4) receptors and (5) metabotropic receptors which are activated by QA and trans-1-amino-cyclopentyl-1,1,3-dicarboxylic acid (Fagg & Masssieu, 1991). These receptors are now regarded as a primary target for drug development for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy,

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Male rats were treated daily with 100 μg of the anti-oestrogen ethamoxytriphetol (MER-25) or oil during the first 10 days of life and tested for lordosis behaviour and mounting behaviour as intact adults, after castration and after castration and oestradiol benzoate or testosterone propionate treatment. The MER-25-treated rats showed higher levels of lordosis behaviour than oil-treated rats in all four treatment groups. Under each of these endocrine conditions, except after castration alone, the MER-25-treated rats showed a reduced capacity to ejaculate. Treatment of the neonatal rat with MER-25 reduced body weight in adulthood but did not change the weight of the accessory sexual glands, the testes, the number of cornified papillae on the glans penis or plasma testosterone concentrations during development. The response of the accessory sexual glands and cornified papillae on the glans penis to treatment with oestradiol benzoate or testosterone propionate after castration in adulthood was unaffected by treatment with MER-25. It is suggested that formation of oestrogen in the neonatal male rat brain from testosterone in the circulation inhibits the capacity to show lordosis behaviour and facilitates the capacity to ejaculate in response to gonadal hormone treatment in adulthood.

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1. Purified anterior pituitary growth hormone has been given to pregnant rats and a study made of the cerebral development of the young in terms of behaviour, electrical activity of the brain and the quantitative histology of the cerebral cortex.

2. The experimental treatment resulted in an increase in the size of the young at birth. The maturation of innate and reflex behavioural responses was little affected but the performance of cortically mediated behaviour was enhanced. Little significant change was observed in the electroencephalogram other than an abnormal response to photic stimulation.

3. These physiological effects were associated with a modified pattern of cortical maturation consistent with a hypertrophy of neurones. This was reflected in an enlargement of the perikarya and an expansion of protoplasmic processes resulting in an increase in the statistical probability of interaction between neurones.

4. The results are discussed in relation to the earlier and somewhat dissimilar findings reported by Zamenhof (1942), and are regarded as consistent with previously formulated hypotheses linking the structure of the cerebral cortex with its mode of functioning.

Open access

Julie Rodriguez and Nathalie M Delzenne

The gut microbiota is now widely recognized as an important factor contributing to the regulation of host metabolic functions. Numerous studies describe an imbalance in the gut microbial ecosystem in response to an energy-dense diet that drives the development of metabolic disorders. In this context, the manipulation of the gut microbiota by food components acting as prebiotics appears as a promising strategy. Several studies have already investigated the beneficial potency of prebiotics, mostly inulin type fructans, on host metabolism and key intestinal functions including gut hormone release. For the last 20 years, several non-digestible compounds present in food have been shown to modulate the gut microbiota and influence host metabolism in essential organs involved in the control of energy homeostasis. To date, numerous reviews summarize the impact of prebiotics on the liver or the brain. Here we propose to describe the mechanisms by which prebiotics, through modulation of the gut microbiota and endocrine functions, modulates the metabolic cross-talk communication between the gut, the adipose tissue and skeletal muscles.

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S. D. Holman and J. B. Hutchison


The effects of testosterone propionate (TP) on brain mechanisms involved in the sexual differentiation of ultrasonic vocalizations were examined in Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus). Treatment of neonatal females with TP fully masculinized the rate of emission of the upsweep precopulatory ultrasound during adult sexual interactions with oestrous females. Intracranial implantation of small crystals of TP mixed with cholesterol (65 ng) into females 1–15 h after birth also masculinized the upsweep vocalization emitted in adulthood. Implants of TP positioned in the hypothalamic area had a significantly greater masculinizing effect than TP implants outside this region, or pure cholesterol implants. Two other sexually dimorphic vocalizations, the modulated (mainly precopulatory) and unmodulated (mainly copulatory) calls were masculinized by systemic TP, but intracranial TP had no significant masculinizing action on these calls. Genital structures of females which received neonatal injections of TP were strongly virilized in that their clitorides were lengthened and male-type cornified spines were present on the glans. Females which had received intracranial implants of TP were not virilized peripherally in adulthood. We conclude that testosterone or its metabolites have a direct hypothalamic effect on the development of masculine upsweep vocalizations. Because the other vocalizations were insensitive to intracranial TP, the underlying neural tissues may have different thresholds of response to androgen.

J. Endocr. (1985) 107, 355–363

Free access

C Clapp, FJ Lopez-Gomez, G Nava, A Corbacho, L Torner, Y Macotela, Z Duenas, A Ochoa, G Noris, E Acosta, E Garay, and G Martinez de la Escalera

Formation of new capillary blood vessels, termed angiogenesis, is essential for the growth and development of tissues and underlies a variety of diseases including tumor growth. Members of the prolactin hormonal family bind to endothelial cell receptors and have direct effects on cell proliferation, migration and tube formation. Because many angiogenic and antiangiogenic factors are produced by endothelial cells, we investigated whether endothelial cells expressed the prolactin gene. Here we show that bovine brain capillary endothelial cells (BBCEC) in culture express the full-length prolactin messenger RNA, in addition to a novel prolactin transcript, lacking the third exon of the gene. In addition cultures of BBCEC synthesize and secrete prolactin-like immunoreactive proteins with apparent molecular masses of 23, 21 and 14 kDa. The prolactin-like nature of these proteins in supported by the observation that Nb2-cells, a prolactin-responsive cell line, were stimulated to proliferate when co-cultured with endothelial cells and this stimulation was neutralized with prolactin-directed antibodies. Finally, consistent with a possible autocrine effect of endothelial-derived prolactins, polyclonal and monoclonal prolactin antibodies specifically inhibited basal and basis fibroblast growth-factor-stimulated growth of endothelial cells. Taken together, the present findings support the hypothesis of the prolactin gene being expressed in endothelial cells as proteins that could act in an autocrine fashion to regulate cell proliferation.

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M Tena-Sempere, J Navarro, L Pinilla, LC Gonzalez, I Huhtaniemi, and E Aguilar

The biological actions of estrogens on target cells are mediated by two nuclear receptors: the estrogen receptor (ER) alpha and the recently characterized ER beta. In the male rat, the physiological role of estrogens involves multiple actions, from masculinization of brain areas related to reproductive function and sexual behavior to regulation of testicular development and function. Paradoxically, however, administration of high doses of estrogen during the critical period of neonatal differentiation results in an array of defects in the reproductive axis that permanently disrupt male fertility. The focus of this study was to characterize the effects and mechanism(s) of action of neonatal estrogenization on the pattern of testicular ER alpha and beta gene expression during postnatal development. To this end, groups of male rats were treated at day 1 of age with estradiol benzoate (500 microg/rat), and testicular ER alpha and ER beta mRNA levels were assayed by semi-quantitative RT-PCR from the neonatal period until puberty (days 1-45 of age). Furthermore, the expression of androgen receptor (AR) mRNA was evaluated, given the partially overlapping pattern of tissue distribution of ER alpha, ER beta and AR messages in the developing rat testis. In addition, potential mechanisms for neonatal estrogen action were explored. Thus, to discriminate between direct effects and indirect actions through estrogen-induced suppression of serum gonadotropins, the effects of neonatal estrogenization were compared with those induced by blockade of gonadotropin secretion with a potent LHRH antagonist in the neonatal period. Our results indicate that neonatal exposure to estrogen differentially alters testicular expression of alpha and beta ER messages: ER alpha mRNA levels, as well as those of AR, were significantly decreased, whereas relative and total expression levels of ER beta mRNA increased during postnatal/prepubertal development after neonatal estrogen exposure, a phenomenon that was not mimicked by LHRH antagonist treatment. It is concluded that the effect of estrogen on the expression levels of ER alpha and beta mRNAs probably involves a direct action on the developing testis, and cannot be attributed to estrogen-induced suppression of gonadotropin secretion during the neonatal period.

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P. Licht, B. T. Pickering, H. Papkoff, A. Pearson, and A. Bona-Gallo


A glycoprotein of neurohypophysial origin was found to have cofractionated with FSH prepared from pituitary glands of the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Antiserum raised against this preparation contained high antibody titres and affinity for the neurohypophysial component and allowed development of a specific radioimmunoassay to monitor its purification and distribution in the brain. Immunocytochemistry revealed that the glycoprotein was concentrated in the pars nervosa and associated nerve tracts passing through the median eminence to the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei; similar distributions were observed in turtles and rats. The antiserum to the turtle material bound radiolabelled rat vasopressin (VP)-neurophysin and precipitated precursors of this neurophysin, but it did not cross-react with rat oxytocin-neurophysin. An amino-terminal alanine was also consistent with the structure of rat VP-neurophysin, but the turtle molecule was larger than the corresponding rat molecule. Limited tryptic digests of the turtle glycoprotein contained two components, one of which bound to lysine VP.

Both components contained carbohydrate, but only the one which bound to VP cross-reacted in a radioimmunoassay for rat VP-neurophysin. The apparent surge in plasma immuno-FSH at the time of oviposition previously described in the turtle probably represented release of a neurophysin-like 'carrier' molecule associated with secretion of the neurohypophysial hormone (e.g. arginine vasotocin; AVT) responsible for oviduct contractility. These data suggest that the neurohypophysial glycoprotein represents a partially processed AVT precursor and provide the first biochemical evidence of a mammalian-like biosynthetic pathway for neurohypophysial hormones in a non-mammalian species.

J. Endocr. (1984) 103, 97–106

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M Kaouass, P Deloyer, and G Dandrifosse


In this study we investigated whether brain-gut peptides are implicated in the activation of the hypophysial-adrenal axis (HAA) in suckling rats treated orally with spermine.

The first group of rats received i.p. injections of bombesin, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), somatostatin or neurotensin, starting on day 11 of life, and killed on day 14. The small intestine was removed and analysed for its content of proteins, DNA, polyamines and for its specific activity (SA) of disaccharidases. The second group of rats received one of the hormones cited above and was killed 45 min after the treatment for determination of corticosterone plasma concentration. Rats of the third group were adrenalectomised then treated with bombesin as the first group. The fourth group of rats was orally treated with spermine and sacrificed 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8 h thereafter for analysis of plasma and intestinal concentrations of bombesin.

The i.p. injection of bombesin increased the sucrase and maltase SA in the whole small intestine, while it decreased the lactase SA in the distal part. Intestinal weight and length, contents of DNA, protein, spermidine and spermine, and corticosterone plasma levels were enhanced by bombesin treatment. Somatostatin, neurotensin and VIP were ineffective on all the parameters studied. Adrenalectomy, in bombesin-treated rats, decreased the sucrase and maltase SA in the whole intestine, and decreased the lactase SA in the proximal intestine. It had no effect on intestinal weight and length, and protein content. Oral administration of spermine had no effect on plasma concentration of bombesin, whereas it decreased the content of this peptide in the whole small intestine.

It is possible that bombesin may control intestinal development in suckling rats and be a link between the ingestion of spermine and the liberation of corticosterone by the adrenal glands.

Journal of Endocrinology (1997) 153, 429–436

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SK Peirce, WY Chen, and WY Chen

Human prolactin (hPRL) has been reported to be involved in breast and prostate cancer development. The hPRL receptor (hPRLR) is expressed in a wide variety of tissues in at least three isoforms. In this study, a one-step real time reverse transcription PCR technique was used to determine relative expression levels of hPRLR mRNA in eleven human breast cancer cell lines, HeLa cells, three prostate cancer cell lines and nine normal human tissues. The housekeeping gene beta-actin was used for internal normalization. We demonstrate that hPRLR mRNA is up-regulated in six of the eleven breast cancer cell lines tested when compared with normal breast tissue. Of the cancer cell lines tested, we found that T-47D cells have the highest level of hPRLR mRNA, followed by MDA-MB-134, BT-483, BT-474, MCF-7 and MDA-MB-453 cells. In two breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-468 and BT-549), the hPRLR levels were found to be comparable to that of normal breast tissue. Three breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-436, MDA-MB-157 and MDA-MB-231) expressed hPRLR mRNA at levels lower than that of normal tissue. In contrast, in all three commonly used prostate cancer cell lines (LNCaP, PC-3 and DU 145), the levels of hPRLR mRNA were found to be down-regulated relative to that of normal prostate tissue. Of nine normal human tissues tested, we found that the uterus and the breast have the highest levels of hPRLR mRNA, followed by the kidney, the liver, the prostate and the ovary. The levels of hPRLR mRNA were the lowest among the trachea, the brain and the lung.