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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.

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Yuan Ni, Dan Xu, Feng Lv, Yang Wan, Guanlan Fan, Wen Zou, Yunxi Chen, Linguo Pei, Jing Yang and Hui Wang

Prenatal ethanol exposure (PEE) adversely affects the offspring reproductive system. We aimed to confirm the susceptibility to premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) in female PEE offspring and elucidate its intrauterine programming mechanism. The pregnant Wistar female rats were intragastrically administered with 4 g/kg × day of ethanol from gestational day (GD) 9 to 20. Offspring reproductive parameters were detected on GD20, postnatal week (PW) 6 and PW12. The PEE foetuses showed a decreased number of oocytes, increased ovarian cell apoptosis and upregulated expression levels of ovarian insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) signalling pathway and steroidogenic enzymes. The proportion of atretic follicles in adult rats was increased, while the number of anti-Müllerian hormone-positive antral follicles was decreased. The serum oestradiol (E2) levels were decreased, but the follicle stimulation hormone levels were elevated. The ovarian Igf1 signalling pathway was transformed from activation during puberty to relative inhibition in adulthood, and the expression levels of ovarian steroidogenic enzymes were inhibited in adulthood. Furthermore, we treated the human granulosa cell line KGN with different ethanol concentrations (15, 30, 60, 120 mM) and found that the expression of IGF1 signalling pathway components, 3β-HSD and P450arom, as well as the production of E2, was increased. After IGF1 siRNA transfection, P450arom expression and E2 production were downregulated. These results suggest that PEE induces POI susceptibility in adult females, which may be caused by over-activation of the foetal ovarian Igf1 signalling pathway and steroidogenesis under PEE, resulting in accelerated early development of folliculogenesis and depletion of primordial follicles.

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Chun-Hsien Chu, Bor-Show Tzang, Li-Mien Chen, Chia-Hua Kuo, Yi-Chang Cheng, Ling-Yun Chen, Fuu-Jen Tsai, Chang-Hai Tsai, Wei-Wen Kuo and Chih-Yang Huang

The role played by IGF-II in signal transduction through the IGF-II/mannose-6-phosphate receptor (IGF2R) in heart tissue has been poorly understood. In our previous studies, we detected an increased expression of IGF-II and IGF2R in cardiomyocytes that had undergone pathological hypertrophy. We hypothesized that after binding with IGF-II, IGF2R may trigger intracellular signaling cascades involved in the progression of pathologically cardiac hypertrophy. In this study, we used immunohistochemical analysis of the human cardiovascular tissue array to detect expression of IGF2R. In our study of H9c2 cardiomyoblast cell cultures, we used the rhodamine phalloidin staining to measure the cell hypertrophy and western blot to measure the expression of cardiac hypertrophy markers atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) in cells treated with IGF-II. We found that a significant association between IGF2R overexpression and myocardial infarction. The treatment of H9c2 cardiomyoblast cells with IGF-II not only induced cell hypertrophy but also increased the protein level of ANP and BNP. Using Leu27IGF-II, an analog of IGF-II which interacts selectively with the IGF2R, to specifically activate IGF2R signaling cascades, we found that binding of Leu27IGF-II to IGF2R led to an increase in the phosphorylation of protein Kinase C (PKC)-α and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) in a Gαq-dependent manner. By the inhibition of PKC-α/CaMKII activity, we found that IGF-II and Leu27IGF-II-induced cell hypertrophy and upregulation of ANP and BNP were significantly suppressed. Taken together, this study provides a new insight into the effects of the IGF2R and its downstream signaling in cardiac hypertrophy. The suppression of IGF2R signaling pathways may be a good strategy to prevent the progression of pathological hypertrophy.

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C Y Shan, J H Yang, Y Kong, X Y Wang, M Y Zheng, Y G Xu, Y Wang, H Z Ren, B C Chang and L M Chen

For centuries, Berberine has been used in the treatment of enteritis in China, and it is also known to have anti-hyperglycemic effects in type 2 diabetic patients. However, as Berberine is insoluble and rarely absorbed in gastrointestinal tract, the mechanism by which it works is unclear. We hypothesized that it may act locally by ameliorating intestinal barrier abnormalities and endotoxemia. A high-fat diet combined with low-dose streptozotocin was used to induce type 2 diabetes in male Sprague Dawley rats. Berberine (100 mg/kg) was administered by lavage to diabetic rats for 2 weeks and saline was given to controls. Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance improved in the Berberine group, although there was no significant decrease in blood glucose. Berberine treatment also led to a notable restoration of intestinal villi/mucosa structure and less infiltration of inflammatory cells, along with a decrease in plasma lipopolysaccharide (LPS) level. Tight junction protein zonula occludens 1 (ZO1) was also decreased in diabetic rats but was restored by Berberine treatment. Glutamine-induced glucagon-like peptide 2 (GLP2) secretion from ileal tissue decreased dramatically in the diabetic group but was restored by Berberine treatment. Fasting insulin, insulin resistance index, plasma LPS level, and ZO1 expression were significantly correlated with GLP2 level. In type 2 diabetic rats, Berberine treatment not only augments GLP2 secretion and improves diabetes but is also effective in repairing the damaged intestinal mucosa, restoring intestinal permeability, and improving endotoxemia. Whether these effects are mechanistically related will require further studies, but they certainly support the hypothesis that Berberine acts via modulation of intestinal function.

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Chao Li, Bin Yang, Zhihao Xu, Eric Boivin, Mazzen Black, Wenlong Huang, Baoyou Xu, Ping Wu, Bo Zhang, Xian Li, Kunsong Chen, Yulian Wu and Gina R Rayat

Oxidative stress is a major cause of islet injury and dysfunction during isolation and transplantation procedures. Cyanidin-3-O-glucoside (C3G), which is present in various fruits and vegetables especially in Chinese bayberry, shows a potent antioxidant property. In this study, we determined whether C3G could protect neonatal porcine islets (NPI) from reactive oxygen species (H2O2)-induced injury in vitro and promote the function of NPI in diabetic mice. We found that C3G had no deleterious effect on NPI and that C3G protected NPI from damage induced by H2O2. Significantly higher hemeoxygenase-1 (HO1) gene expression was detected in C3G-treated NPI compared to untreated islets before and after transplantation (P < 0.05). Western blot analysis showed a significant increase in the levels of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K/Akt) proteins in C3G-treated NPI compared to untreated islets. C3G induced the nuclear translocation of nuclear erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) and the significant elevation of HO1 protein. Recipients of C3G-treated NPI with or without C3G-supplemented drinking water achieved normoglycemia earlier compared to recipients of untreated islets. Mice that received C3G-treated islets with or without C3G-supplemented water displayed significantly lower blood glucose levels at 5–10 weeks post-transplantation compared to mice that received untreated islets. Mice that received C3G-treated NPI and C3G-supplemented drinking water had significantly (P < 0.05) lower blood glucose levels at 7 and 8 weeks post-transplantation compared to mice that received C3G-treated islets. These findings suggest that C3G has a beneficial effect on NPI through the activation of ERK1/2- and PI3K/AKT-induced NRF2-mediated HO1 signaling pathway.

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Wenqi Chen, Siyu Lu, Chengshun Yang, Na Li, Xuemei Chen, Junlin He, Xueqing Liu, Yubin Ding, Chao Tong, Chuan Peng, Chen Zhang, Yan Su, Yingxiong Wang and Rufei Gao

Previous research on the role of insulin has focused on metabolism. This study investigated the effect of insulin on angiogenesis in endometrial decidualization. High insulin-treated mouse model was constructed by subcutaneous injection of insulin. Venous blood glucose, serum insulin, P4, E2, FSH and LH levels in the pregnant mice were detected by ELISA. Decidual markers, angiogenesis factors and decidual vascular network were detected during decidualization in the pregnant mouse model and an artificially induced decidualization mouse model. Tube formation ability and angiogenesis factors expression were also detected in high insulin-treated HUVECS cells. To confirm whether autophagy participates in hyperinsulinemia-impaired decidual angiogenesis, autophagy was detected in vivo and in vitro. During decidualization, in the condition of high insulin, serum insulin and blood glucose were significantly higher, while ovarian steroid hormones were also disordered (P < 0.05), decidual markers BMP2 and PRL were significantly lower (P < 0.05). Uterine CD34 staining showed that the size of the vascular sinus was significantly smaller than that in control. Endometrial VEGFA was significantly decreased after treatment with high insulin in vivo and in vitro (P < 0.05), whereas ANG-1 and TIE2 expression was significantly increased (P < 0.05). In addition, aberrant expression of autophagy markers revealed that autophagy participates in endometrial angiogenesis during decidualization (P < 0.05). After treatment with the autophagy inhibitor 3-MA in HUVEC, the originally damaged cell tube formation ability and VEGFA expression were repaired. This study suggests that endometrial angiogenesis during decidualization was impaired by hyperinsulinemia in early pregnant mice.

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Jinn-Yang Chen, Deng-Yuan Jian, Chih-Chan Lien, Yu-Ting Lin, Ching-Heng Ting, Luen-Kui Chen, Ting-Chia Hsu, Hsuan-Min Huang, Yu-Ting Wu, Tse-Ting Kuan, Yu-Wen Chao, Liang-Yi Wu, Seng-Wong Huang and Chi-Chang Juan

Obesity is a risk factor that promotes progressive kidney disease. Studies have shown that an adipocytokine imbalance contributes to impaired renal function in humans and animals, but the underlying interplay between adipocytokines and renal injury remains to be elucidated. We aimed to investigate the mechanisms linking obesity to chronic kidney disease. We assessed renal function in high-fat (HF) diet-fed and normal diet-fed rats, and the effects of preadipocyte- and adipocyte-conditioned medium on cultured podocytes. HF diet-fed and normal diet-fed Sprague Dawley rats were used to analyze the changes in plasma BUN, creatinine, urine protein and renal histology. Additionally, podocytes were incubated with preadipocyte- or adipocyte-conditioned medium to investigate the effects on podocyte morphology and protein expression. In the HF diet group, 24 h urinary protein excretion (357.5 ± 64.2 mg/day vs 115.9 ± 12.4 mg/day, P < 0.05) and the urine protein/creatinine ratio were significantly higher (1.76 ± 0.22 vs 1.09 ± 0.15, P < 0.05), increased kidney weight (3.54 ± 0.04 g vs 3.38 ± 0.04 g, P < 0.05) and the glomerular volume and podocyte effacement increased by electron microscopy. Increased renal expression of desmin and decreased renal expression of CD2AP and nephrin were also seen in the HF diet group (P < 0.05). Furthermore, we found that adipocyte-conditioned medium-treated podocytes showed increased desmin expression and decreased CD2AP and nephrin expression compared with that in preadipocyte-conditioned medium-treated controls (P < 0.05). These findings show that adipocyte-derived factor(s) can modulate renal function. Adipocyte-derived factors play an important role in obesity-related podocytopathy.

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Yang Chen, Mingyue Zhao, Chenhao Wang, Huaizhen Wen, Yuntao Zhang, Mingxu Lu, Salah Adlat, Tingting Zheng, Mingjiao Zhang, Dan Li, Xiaodan Lu, Mengwei Guo, Hongyu Chen, Luqing Zhang, Xuechao Feng and Yaowu Zheng

Excessive fat accumulation causes obesity and many diseases. Previous study demonstrates VEGFB universal knockout induces obese phenotypes including expansion of white adipose tissue, whitening of brown adipose tissue, increase of fat accumulation and reduction in energy consumption. However, roles of VEGFB in adipose tissues are not clear. In this study, we have generated a mouse model with adipose-specific VEGFB repression using CRISPR/dCas9 system (Vegfb AdipoDown) and investigated the roles of VEGFB in adipose development and energy metabolism. VEGFB repression induced significant changes in adipose tissue structure and function. Vegfb AdipoDown mice have larger body sizes, larger volume of white adipose tissues than its wild type littermates. Adipose-specific VEGFB repression induced morphological and functional transformation of adipose tissues toward white adipose for energy storage. Metabolic processes are broadly changed in Vegfb AdipoDown adipose tissues including carbohydrate metabolism, lipid metabolism, nucleotide metabolism and amino acid metabolism. We have demonstrated that adipose VEGFB repression can recapitulate most of the phenotypes of the whole body VEGFB knockout mouse. Intriguingly, approximately 50% VEGFB repression in adipose tissues can almost completely mimic the effects of universal Vegfb deletion, suggesting adipose VEGFB is a major regulator of energy metabolism and may be important in prevention and treatment of obesity.

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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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Wang-Yang Xu, Yan Shen, Houbao Zhu, Junhui Gao, Chen Zhang, Lingyun Tang, Shun-Yuan Lu, Chun-Ling Shen, Hong-Xin Zhang, Ziwei Li, Peng Meng, Ying-Han Wan, Jian Fei and Zhu-Gang Wang

Obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) are both complicated endocrine disorders resulting from an interaction between multiple predisposing genes and environmental triggers, while diet and exercise have key influence on metabolic disorders. Previous reports demonstrated that 2-aminoadipic acid (2-AAA), an intermediate metabolite of lysine metabolism, could modulate insulin secretion and predict T2D, suggesting the role of 2-AAA in glycolipid metabolism. Here, we showed that treatment of diet-induced obesity (DIO) mice with 2-AAA significantly reduced body weight, decreased fat accumulation and lowered fasting glucose. Furthermore, Dhtkd1−/− mice, in which the substrate of DHTKD1 2-AAA increased to a significant high level, were resistant to DIO and obesity-related insulin resistance. Further study showed that 2-AAA induced higher energy expenditure due to increased adipocyte thermogenesis via upregulating PGC1α and UCP1 mediated by β3AR activation, and stimulated lipolysis depending on enhanced expression of hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) through activating β3AR signaling. Moreover, 2-AAA could alleviate the diabetic symptoms of db/db mice. Our data showed that 2-AAA played an important role in regulating glycolipid metabolism independent of diet and exercise, implying that improving the level of 2-AAA in vivo could be developed as a strategy in the treatment of obesity or diabetes.