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Aiying Liu, Liping Gao, Shoulei Kang, Ying Liu, Chuanying Xu, Hong Sun, Dongye Li and Changdong Yan

After menopause, the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is due not only to estrogen decline but also to androgen decline. This study examined the effects of either estradiol (E2) or testosterone replacement alone or E2–testosterone combination on isolated myocytes in ovariectomized (Ovx) rats subjected to ischemia/reperfusion (I/R). Furthermore, we determined whether the effects are associated with β2-adrenoceptor (β2-AR). Five groups of adult female Sprague–Dawley rats were used: Sham operation (Sham) rats, bilateral Ovx rats, Ovx rats with E2 40 μg/kg per day (Ovx+E), Ovx rats with testosterone 150 μg/kg per day (Ovx+T), and Ovx rats with E2 40 μg/kg per day+testosterone 150 μg/kg per day (Ovx+E/T). We determined the lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release, percentage of rod-shaped cells and apoptosis of ventricular myocytes from rats of all groups subjected to I/R. Then, we determined the above indices and contractile function with or without a selective β2-AR antagonist ICI 118 551. We also determined the expression of β2-AR. Our data show that either E2 or testosterone replacement alone or E2 and testosterone in combination decreased the LDH release, increased the percentage of rod-shaped cells, reduced apoptotic cells (%), and combination treatment appeared to be more effective than either E2 or testosterone replacement alone. ICI 118 551 abolished the effects of the three. Combination supplementation also enhanced the expression of β2-AR. We concluded that in Ovx rats, testosterone enhances E2's cardioprotection, while E2 and testosterone in combination was more effective and the protective effects may be associated with β2-AR. The study highlights the potential therapeutic application for CVD in postmenopausal women.

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XueJing Zhang, JianHua Li, JiaLi Liu, HaoShu Luo, KeMian Gou and Sheng Cui

Prostaglandin F2 α (PGF2 α) is a key factor in the triggering of the regression of the corpus luteum (CL). Furthermore, it has been reported that Slit/Robo signaling is involved in the regulation of luteolysis. However, the interactions between PGF2 α and Slit/Robo in the progression of luteolysis remain to be established. This study was designed to determine whether luteolysis is regulated by the interactions of PGF2 α and Slit/Robo in the mouse CL. Real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry results showed that Slit2 and its receptor Robo1 are highly and specifically co-expressed in the mouse CL. Functional studies showed that Slit/Robo participates in mouse luteolysis by enhancing cell apoptosis and upregulating caspase3 expression. Both in vitro and in vivo studies showed that PGF2 α significantly increases the expression of Slit2 and Robo1 during luteolysis through protein kinase C-dependent ERK1/2 and P38 MAPK signaling pathways, whereas an inhibitor of Slit/Robo signaling significantly decreases the stimulating effect of PGF2 α on luteolysis. These findings indicate that Slit/Robo signaling plays important roles in PGF2 α-induced luteolysis by mediating the PGF2 α signaling pathway in the CL.

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Akhilesh K Pandey, Wei Li, Xiangling Yin, Douglas M Stocco, Paula Grammas and XingJia Wang

Previous studies have reported the roles of Ca2+ in steroidogenesis. The present study has investigated an inhibitory effect of Ca2+ influx through L-type Ca2+ channels on gene expression of steroidogenic acute regulatory (STAR) protein that regulates the transfer of substrate cholesterol to the inner mitochondrial membrane for steroidogenesis. Blocking Ca2+ influx through L-type Ca2+ channels using the selective Ca2+ channel blocker, nifedipine, markedly enhanced cAMP-induced STAR protein expression and progesterone production in MA-10 mouse Leydig cells. This was confirmed by utilization of different L-type Ca2+ channel blockers. Reverse transcription-PCR analyses of Star mRNA and luciferase assays of Star promoter activity indicated that blocking Ca2+ influx through L-type Ca2+ channels acted at the level of Star gene transcription. Further studies showed that blocking the Ca2+ channel enhanced Star gene transcription by depressing the expression of DAX-1 (NR0B1 as listed in the MGI Database) protein, a transcriptional repressor of Star gene expression. It was also observed that there is a synergistic interaction between nifedipine and cAMP. Normally, sub-threshold levels of cAMP are unable to induce steroidogenesis, but in the presence of the L-type Ca2+ channel blocker, they increased STAR protein and steroid hormone to the maximal levels. However, in the absence of minimal levels of cAMP, none of the L-type Ca2+ channel blockers are able to induce Star gene expression. These observations indicate that Ca2+ influx through L-type Ca2+ channels is involved in an inhibitory effect on Star gene expression. Blocking L-type Ca2+ channel attenuated the inhibition and reduced the threshold of cAMP-induced Star gene expression in Leydig cells.

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Shengyi Sun, Elissa W P Wong, Michelle W M Li, Will M Lee and C Yan Cheng

During spermatogenesis, spermiation takes place at the adluminal edge of the seminiferous epithelium at stage VIII of the epithelial cycle during which fully developed spermatids (i.e. spermatozoa) detach from the epithelium in adult rat testes. This event coincides with the migration of preleptotene/leptotene spermatocytes across the blood–testis barrier from the basal to the apical (or adluminal) compartment. At stage XIV of the epithelial cycle, Pachytene spermatocytes (diploid, 2n) differentiate into diplotene spermatocytes (tetraploid, 4n) in the apical compartment of the epithelium, which begin meiosis I to be followed by meiosis II to form spermatids (haploid, 1n) at stage XIV of the epithelial cycle. These spermatids, in turn, undergo extensive morphological changes and traverse the seminiferous epithelium until they differentiate into elongated spermatids. Thus, there are extensive changes at the Sertoli–Sertoli and Sertoli–germ cell interface via protein ‘coupling’ and ‘uncoupling’ between cell adhesion protein complexes, as well as changes in interactions between integral membrane proteins and their peripheral adaptors, regulatory protein kinases and phosphatases, and the cytoskeletal proteins. These precisely coordinated protein–protein interactions affect cell adhesion and cell movement. In this review, we focus on the 14-3-3 protein family, whose members have different binding partners in the seminiferous epithelium. Recent studies have illustrated that 14-3-3 affects protein–protein interactions in the seminiferous epithelium, and regulates cell adhesion possibly via its effects on intracellular protein trafficking and cell-polarity proteins. This review provides a summary on the latest findings regarding the role of 14-3-3 family of proteins and their potential implications on spermatogenesis. We also highlight research areas that deserve attentions by investigators.

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Zhenhua Li, Tao Zhang, Hongyan Dai, Guanghui Liu, Haibin Wang, Yingying Sun, Yun Zhang and Zhiming Ge

Apoptosis plays a critical role in the diabetic cardiomyopathy, and endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS) is one of the intrinsic apoptosis pathways. Previous studies have shown that the endoplasmic reticulum becomes swollen and dilated in diabetic myocardium, and ERS is involved in heart failure and diabetic kidney. This study is aimed to demonstrate whether ERS is induced in myocardium of streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats. We established a type 1 diabetic rat model, used echocardiographic evaluation, hematoxylin–eosin staining, and the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated DNA nick-end labeling staining to identify the existence of diabetic cardiomyopathy and enhanced apoptosis in the diabetic heart. We performed immunohistochemistry, western blot, and real-time PCR to analyze the hallmarks of ERS that include glucose-regulated protein 78, CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein homologous protein (CHOP) and caspase12. We found these hallmarks to have enhanced expression in protein and mRNA levels in diabetic myocardium. Also, another pathway that can lead to cell death of ERS, c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase-dependent pathway, was also activated in diabetic heart. Those results suggested that ERS was induced in STZ-induced diabetic rats' myocardium, and ERS-associated apoptosis occurred in the pathophysiology of diabetic cardiomyopathy.

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Hao Wu, Junduo Wu, Shengzhu Zhou, Wenlin Huang, Ying Li, Huan Zhang, Junnan Wang and Ye Jia

Endothelial dysfunction contributes to diabetic macrovascular complications. Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) protects against diabetic vasculopathy. SRT2104 is a novel SIRT1 activator and was not previously studied for its effects on diabetes-induced aortic endothelial dysfunction. Additionally, whether or to what extent deacetylation of P53, a substrate of SIRT1, is required for the effects of SIRT1 activation was unclear, given the fact that SIRT1 has multiple targets. Moreover, little was known about the pathogenic role of P53 in diabetes-induced aortic injury. To these ends, diabetes was induced by streptozotocin in C57BL/6 mice. The diabetic mice developed enhanced aortic contractility, oxidative stress, inflammation, P53 hyperacetylation and a remarkable decrease in SIRT1 protein, the effects of which were rescued by SRT2104. In HG-treated endothelial cells (ECs), P53 siRNA and SRT2104 produced similar effects on the induction of SIRT1 and the inhibition of P53 acetylation, oxidative stress and inflammation. Interestingly, SRT2104 failed to further enhance these effects in the presence of P53 siRNA. Moreover, P53 activation by nutlin3a completely abolished SRT2104’s protection against HG-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. Further, forced activation of P53 by nutlin3a increased aortic contractility in the healthy mice and generated endothelial oxidative stress and inflammation in both the normal glucose-cultured ECs and the aortas of the healthy mice. Collectively, the present study demonstrates that P53 deacetylation predominantly mediates SRT2104’s protection against diabetes-induced aortic endothelial dysfunction and highlights the pathogenic role of P53 in aortic endothelial dysfunction.

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Mingyu Li, E Danielle Dean, Liyuan Zhao, Wendell E Nicholson, Alvin C Powers and Wenbiao Chen

Glucagon antagonism is a potential treatment for diabetes. One potential side effect is α-cell hyperplasia, which has been noted in several approaches to antagonize glucagon action. To investigate the molecular mechanism of the α-cell hyperplasia and to identify the responsible factor, we created a zebrafish model in which glucagon receptor (gcgr) signaling has been interrupted. The genetically and chemically tractable zebrafish, which provides a robust discovery platform, has two gcgr genes (gcgra and gcgrb) in its genome. Sequence, phylogenetic, and synteny analyses suggest that these are co-orthologs of the human GCGR. Similar to its mammalian counterparts, gcgra and gcgrb are mainly expressed in the liver. We inactivated the zebrafish gcgra and gcgrb using transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN) first individually and then both genes, and assessed the number of α-cells using an α-cell reporter line, Tg(gcga:GFP). Compared to WT fish at 7 days postfertilization, there were more α-cells in gcgra / , gcgrb / , and gcgra / ;gcgrb / fish and there was an increased rate of α-cell proliferation in the gcgra / ;gcgrb / fish. Glucagon levels were higher but free glucose levels were lower in gcgra / , gcgrb / , and gcgra / ;gcgrb / fish, similar to Gcgr / mice. These results indicate that the compensatory α-cell hyperplasia in response to interruption of glucagon signaling is conserved in zebrafish. The robust α-cell hyperplasia in gcgra / ;gcgrb / larvae provides a platform to screen for chemical and genetic suppressors, and ultimately to identify the stimulus of α-cell hyperplasia and its signaling mechanism.

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Zhen Yang, Chunming Guo, Ping Zhu, Wenjiao Li, Leslie Myatt and Kang Sun

The amount of cortisol available to its receptors is increased by the pre-receptor enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) which converts cortisone to cortisol. We examined the molecular mechanisms of the feedback effect of cortisol on 11β-HSD1 mRNA expression in human amnion fibroblasts. Our data showed that cortisol-induced 11β-HSD1 mRNA expression dose dependently in amnion fibroblasts, which could be completely blocked both by the mRNA transcription inhibitor 5,6-dichlorobenzimidazole riboside and by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) antagonist RU486, and partially blocked by global inhibition of CCAAT/enhancer-binding proteins (C/EBPs) with transfection of C/EBP-specific dominant-negative expression CMV500 plasmid (AC/EBP) into the cells. Likewise, the induction of the promoter activity by cortisol could also be completely blocked by RU486 and partially by AC/EBP transfection. Progressive 5′ deletion of the 11β-HSD1promoter located the region responsible for cortisol’s induction within −204 bp upstream to the transcription start site. Specific nucleotide mutations of the putative glucocorticoid responsive element or CCAAT in this promoter region attenuated the induction by cortisol. Moreover, chromatin immunoprecipitation assay and electrophoretic mobility shift assay showed that GR and C/EBPα but not C/EBPβ could bind this promoter region upon cortisol stimulation of amnion fibroblasts. In conclusion, we demonstrated that GR and C/EBPα were involved in cortisol-induced 11β-HSD1 mRNA expression via binding to 11β-HSD1 promoter in amnion fibroblasts, which may cast a feed-forward production of cortisol in the fetal membranes at the end of gestation.

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Rachel Botchlett, Shih-Lung Woo, Mengyang Liu, Ya Pei, Xin Guo, Honggui Li and Chaodong Wu

Obesity is an ongoing pandemic and serves as a causal factor of a wide spectrum of metabolic diseases including diabetes, fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease. Much evidence has demonstrated that nutrient overload/overnutrition initiates or exacerbates inflammatory responses in tissues/organs involved in the regulation of systemic metabolic homeostasis. This obesity-associated inflammation is usually at a low-grade and viewed as metabolic inflammation. When it exists continuously, inflammation inappropriately alters metabolic pathways and impairs insulin signaling cascades in peripheral tissues/organs such as adipose tissue, the liver and skeletal muscles, resulting in local fat deposition and insulin resistance and systemic metabolic dysregulation. In addition, inflammatory mediators, e.g., proinflammatory cytokines, and excessive nutrients, e.g., glucose and fatty acids, act together to aggravate local insulin resistance and form a vicious cycle to further disturb the local metabolic pathways and exacerbate systemic metabolic dysregulation. Owing to the critical role of nutrient metabolism in controlling the initiation and progression of inflammation and insulin resistance, nutritional approaches have been implicated as effective tools for managing obesity and obesity-associated metabolic diseases. Based on the mounting evidence generated from both basic and clinical research, nutritional approaches are commonly used for suppressing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, and/or decreasing fat deposition. Consequently, the combined effects are responsible for improvement of systemic insulin sensitivity and metabolic homeostasis.

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Yunshuang Yue, Yi Wang, Dan Li, Zhigang Song, Hongchao Jiao and Hai Lin

Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), also known as endotoxin, induces profound anorexia. However, the LPS-provoked pro-inflammatory signaling cascades and the neural mechanisms underlying the development of anorexia are not clear. Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a key regulator of metabolism, cell growth, and protein synthesis. This study aimed to determine whether the mTOR pathway is involved in LPS-induced anorexia. Effects of LPS on hypothalamic gene/protein expression in mice were measured by RT-PCR or western blotting analysis. To determine whether inhibition of mTOR signaling could attenuate LPS-induced anorexia, we administered an i.c.v. injection of rapamycin, an mTOR inhibitor, on LPS-treated male mice. In this study, we showed that LPS stimulates the mTOR signaling pathway through the enhanced phosphorylation of mTORSer2448 and p70S6KThr389. We also showed that LPS administration increased the phosphorylation of FOXO1Ser256, the p65 subunit of nuclear factor kappa B (P<0.05), and FOXO1/3aThr 24 / 32 (P<0.01). Blocking the mTOR pathway significantly attenuated the LPS-induced anorexia by decreasing the phosphorylation of p70S6KThr389, FOXO1Ser256, and FOXO1/3aThr 24 / 32. These results suggest promising approaches for the prevention and treatment of LPS-induced anorexia.