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Caiping Mao, Rong Liu, Le Bo, Ningjing Chen, Shigang Li, Shuixiu Xia, Jie Chen, Dawei Li, Lubo Zhang and Zhice Xu

Intrauterine environments are related to fetal renal development and postnatal health. Influence of salty diets during pregnancy on renal functions and renin–angiotensin system (RAS) was determined in the ovine fetuses and offspring. Pregnant ewes were fed high-salt diet (HSD) or normal-salt diet (NSD) for 2 months during middle-to-late gestation. Fetal renal functions, plasma hormones, and mRNA and protein expressions of the key elements of renal RAS were measured in the fetuses and offspring. Fetal renal excretion of sodium was increased while urine volume decreased in the HSD group. Fetal blood urea nitrogen was increased, while kidney weight:body weight ratio decreased in the HSD group. The altered ratio was also observed in the offspring aged 15 and 90 days. Maternal and fetal plasma antidiuretic hormone was elevated without changes in plasma renin activity and Ang I levels, while plasma Ang II was decreased. The key elements of local renal RAS, including angiotensinogen, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), ACE2, AT1, and AT2 receptor expression in both mRNA and protein, except renin, were altered following maternal high salt intake. The results suggest that high intake of salt during pregnancy affected fetal renal development associated with an altered expression of the renal key elements of RAS, some alterations of fetal origins remained after birth as possible risks in developing renal or cardiovascular diseases.

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Lei Ye, Xiaoying Li, Xiangyin Kong, Weiqing Wang, Yufang Bi, Landian Hu, Bin Cui, Xi Li and Guang Ning

The ectopic ACTH syndrome is caused by abnormal expression of the POMC gene product arising from non-pituitary tumors in response to the ectopic activation of the pituitary-specific promoter of this gene. It has been proved that methylation of the CpG island in the promoter region is associated with silencing of some genes. Using bisulphite sequencing, we identified hypermethylation in the 5′ promoter region of the POMC gene in three normal thymuses and one large cell lung cancer, and hypomethylation in five thymic carcinoid tumors resected from patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome. The region undergoing hypermethylation was narrowed to coordinates −417 to −260 of the POMC promoter. Furthermore, we observed that the levels of POMC expression correlated with the methylation density at −417 to −260 bp across the E2 transcription factor binding region of the POMC promoter. It is concluded that hypomethylation of the POMC promoter in thymic carcinoids correlates with POMC overexpression and the ectopic ACTH syndrome.

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Ying Wang, Xiao-Hui Wang, Deng-Xuan Fan, Yuan Zhang, Ming-Qing Li, Hai-Xia Wu and Li-Ping Jin

Mammalian proprotein convertases (PCs) play an important role in folliculogenesis, as they proteolytically activate a variety of substrates such as the transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) superfamily. PC subtilism/kexin 6 (PCSK6) is a member of the PC family and is ubiquitously expressed and implicated in many physiological and pathological processes. However, in human granulosa cells, the expression of the PC family members, their hormonal regulation, and the function of PCs are not clear. In this study, we found that PCSK6 is the most highly expressed PC family member in granulosa cells. LH increased PCSK6 mRNA level and PCSK6 played an anti-apoptosis function in KGN cells. Knockdown of PCSK6 not only increased the secretion of activin A and TGFβ2 but also decreased the secretion of follistatin, estrogen, and the mRNA levels of FSH receptor (FSHR) and P450AROM (CYP19A1). We also found that, in the KGN human granulosa cell line, TGFβ2 and activin A could promote the apoptosis of KGN cells and LH could regulate the follistatin level. These data indicate that PCSK6, which is regulated by LH, is highly expressed in human primary granulosa cells of pre-ovulatory follicles and plays important roles in regulating a series of downstream molecules and apoptosis of KGN cells.

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Sihan Lv, Xinchen Qiu, Jian Li, Jinye Liang, Weida Li, Chao Zhang, Zhen-Ning Zhang and Bing Luan

Hormonal signals help to maintain glucose and lipid homeostasis in the liver during the periods of fasting. Glucagon, a pancreas-derived hormone induced by fasting, promotes gluconeogenesis through induction of intracellular cAMP production. Glucagon also stimulates hepatic fatty acid oxidation but the underlying mechanism is poorly characterized. Here we report that following the acute induction of gluconeogenic genes Glucose 6 phosphatase (G6Pase) and Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (Pepck) expression through cAMP-response element-binding protein (CREB), glucagon triggers a second delayed phase of fatty acid oxidation genes Acyl-coenzyme A oxidase (Aox) and Carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1a (Cpt1a) expression via extracellular cAMP. Increase in extracellular cAMP promotes PPARα activity through direct phosphorylation by AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), while inhibition of cAMP efflux greatly attenuates Aox and Cpt1a expression. Importantly, cAMP injection improves lipid homeostasis in fasted mice and obese mice, while inhibition of cAMP efflux deteriorates hepatic steatosis in fasted mice. Collectively, our results demonstrate the vital role of glucagon-stimulated extracellular cAMP in the regulation of hepatic lipid metabolism through AMPK-mediated PPARα activation. Therefore, strategies to improve cAMP efflux could serve as potential new tools to prevent obesity-associated hepatic steatosis.

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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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Junhong Chen, Jing Sun, Michelle E Doscas, Jin Ye, Ashley J Williamson, Yanchun Li, Yi Li, Richard A Prinz and Xiulong Xu

p70 S6 kinase (S6K1) is a serine/threonine kinase that phosphorylates the insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) at serine 1101 and desensitizes insulin receptor signaling. S6K1 hyperactivation due to overnutrition leads to hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes. Our recent study showed that A77 1726, the active metabolite of the anti-rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drug leflunomide, is an inhibitor of S6K1. Whether leflunomide can control hyperglycemia and sensitize the insulin receptor has not been tested. Here we report that A77 1726 increased AKTS473/T308 and S6K1T389 phosphorylation but decreased S6S235/236 and IRS-1S1101 phosphorylation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, C2C12 and L6 myotubes. A77 1726 increased insulin receptor tyrosine phosphorylation and binding of the p85 subunit of the PI-3 kinase to IRS-1. A77 1726 enhanced insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in L6 myotubes and 3T3-L1 adipocytes, and enhanced insulin-stimulated glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) translocation to the plasma membrane of L6 cells. Finally, we investigated the anti-hyperglycemic effect of leflunomide on ob/ob and high-fat diet (HFD)-induced diabetes mouse models. Leflunomide treatment normalized blood glucose levels and overcame insulin resistance in glucose and insulin tolerance tests in ob/ob and HFD-fed mice but had no effect on mice fed a normal chow diet (NCD). Leflunomide treatment increased AKTS473/T308 phosphorylation in the fat and muscle of ob/ob mice but not in normal mice. Our results suggest that leflunomide sensitizes the insulin receptor by inhibiting S6K1 activity in vitro, and that leflunomide could be potentially useful for treating patients with both RA and diabetes.

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Xin Li, Hongjiao Li, Di Zhang, Guojin Xu, Jinglin Zhang and Sheng Cui

MicroRNA-7 (miR-7) is an important modulator of a plenty of gene expressions and the interrelated biological processes, highly expressed in porcine pituitary. Norepinephrine (NE), acting as an important neurotransmitter or/and a hormone secreted excessively under stress, affects the synthesis and secretion of various hormones, including pituitary follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which are the key hormones which regulate sexual maturation and reproductive functions. However, the relationship among NE, miR-7 and gonadotropin needs to be elucidated. The aim of this study was to identify whether miR-7 involved in the NE-adrenoceptor signaling pathway affects the synthesis and secretion of FSH and LH in porcine pituitary. Our results showed that the NE intracerebroventricular injection increased pituitary miR-7 level and the synthesis and secretion of FSH and LH in porcine, whereas the inhibition of either endogenous miR-7 or β-adrenergic receptors hindered the rise of FSH and LH synthesis induced by NE in cultured primary porcine anterior pituitary cells. Further, we identified the molecular type of β-adrenergic receptors and the signaling pathway in porcine pituitary, and we found that NE played its roles relying on adrenoceptor beta 2 (β2AR) and the RAF/MEK/ERK1/2 signaling pathway. The phosphorylation of ERK1/2 upregulated miR-7 level which subsequently enhanced FSH and LH synthesis by targeting to Golgi glycoprotein 1 (GLG1). These suggest that miR-7 mediates NE’s effect on promoting FSH and LH synthesis in porcine pituitary.

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Qiong Lv, Rufei Gao, Chuan Peng, Juan Yi, Lulu Liu, Shumin Yang, Danting Li, Jinbo Hu, Ting Luo, Mei Mei, Ying Song, Chaodong Wu, Xiaoqiu Xiao and Qifu Li

Bisphenol A (BPA), one of the most common environmental endocrine disruptors, is considered to promote hepatic lipid deposition. However, the mechanism has not been fully elucidated. The polarization of Kupffer cells (KCs) plays an important role in hepatic inflammation by promoting pro-inflammatory M1 phenotype (M1KCs), which contributes to dysregulated lipid metabolism. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of KC polarization in BPA-induced hepatosteatosis in male mice. In this study, we examined hepatic lipid contents and quantified M1KC in BPA-treated CD1 mice, and further explored the interaction between KCs and hepatocytes using conditional HepG2 cell culture. BPA treatment significantly increased hepatic fat contents in CD1 mice, accompanied by increased number of pro-inflammatory M1KCs and enhanced secretion of inflammatory cytokines. Increased lipid contents were also observed in HepG2 cells treated with BPA. Interestingly, higher TG contents were observed in HepaG2 cells treated with conditional media from BPA-treated KCs, compared with those treated with BPA directly. Incubation of KCs with BPA promoted the polarization of KCs to pro-inflammatory M1 dominant subtypes, which was blocked by estrogen antagonist ICI182780. Taken together, our results revealed that M1KCs polarization is involved in BPA-induced hepatic fat deposition, which is possibly associated with the estrogen receptor signaling pathway.

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Liqiong Song, Wei Xia, Zhao Zhou, Yuanyuan Li, Yi Lin, Jie Wei, Zhengzheng Wei, Bing Xu, Jie Shen, Weiyong Li and Shunqing Xu

Phenolic estrogen pollutants, a class of typical endocrine-disrupting chemicals, have attracted public attention due to their estrogenic activities of imitating steroid hormone 17β-estradiol (E2) effects. Exposure to these pollutants may disrupt insulin secretion and be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In this study, we investigated the direct effects of phenolic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES), octylphenol (OP), nonylphenol (NP), and bisphenol A (BPA) on rat pancreatic islets in vitro, whose estrogenic activities were DES>NP>OP>BPA. Isolated β-cells were exposed to E2, DES, OP, NP, or BPA (0, 0.1, 0.5, 2.5, 25, and 250 μg/l) for 24 h. Parameters of insulin secretion, content, and morphology of β-cells were measured. In the glucose-stimulated insulin secretion test, E2 and DES increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent manner in a 16.7 mM glucose condition. However, for BPA, NP, or OP with lower estrogenic activity, the relationship between the doses and insulin secretion was an inverted U-shape. Moreover, OP, NP, or BPA (25 μg/l) impaired mitochondrial function in β-cells and induced remarkable swelling of mitochondria with loss of distinct cristae structure within the membrane, which was accompanied by disruption of mRNA expression of genes playing a key role in β-cell function (Glut2 (Slc2a2), Gck, Pdx1, Hnf1 α, Rab27a, and Snap25), and mitochondrial function (Ucp2 and Ogdh). Therefore, these phenolic estrogens can disrupt islet morphology and β-cell function, and mitochondrial dysfunction is suggested to play an important role in the impairment of β-cell function.

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Shou-Si Lu, Yun-Li Yu, Hao-Jie Zhu, Xiao-Dong Liu, Li Liu, Yao-Wu Liu, Ping Wang, Lin Xie and Guang-Ji Wang

Berberine (BBR), a hypoglycemic agent, has shown beneficial metabolic effects for anti-diabetes, but its precise mechanism was unclear. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is considered to be an important incretin that can decrease hyperglycemia in the gastrointestinal tract after meals. The aim of this study was to investigate whether BBR exerts its anti-diabetic effects via modulating GCG secretion. Diabetes-like rats induced by streptozotocin received BBR (120 mg/kg per day, i.g) for 5 weeks. Two hours following the last dose, the rats were anaesthetized and received 2.5 g/kg glucose by gavage. At 15-minute and 30-minute after glucose load, blood samples, pancreas, and intestines were obtained to measure insulin and GCG using ELISA kit. The number of L cells in the ileum and β-cells in the pancreas were identified using immunohistology. The expression of proglucagon mRNA in the ileum was measured by RT-PCR. The results indicated that BBR treatment significantly increased GCG levels in plasma and intestine (P<0.05) accompanied with the increase of proglucagon mRNA expression and the number of L-cell compared with the controls (P<0.05). Furthermore, BBR increased insulin levels in plasma and pancreas as well as β-cell number in pancreas. The data support the hypothesis that the anti-diabetic effects of BBR may partly result from enhancing GCG secretion.