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Xiaoli Wang, Fei Chang, Yinyang Bai, Fang Chen, Jun Zhang and Ling Chen

Bisphenol-A (BPA), an environmental estrogen, adversely affects female reproductive health. However, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. We found that oral administration (p.o.) of BPA (20 μg/kg) to adult female mice at proestrus, but not at estrus or diestrus, significantly increased the levels of plasma E2, LH and FSH, and Gnrh mRNA within 6 h. The administration of BPA at proestrus, but not at diestrus, could elevate the levels of Kiss1 mRNA and kisspeptin protein in anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV) within 6 h. In contrast, the level of Kiss1 mRNA in arcuate nucleus (ARC) was hardly altered by BPA administration. In addition, at proestrus, a single injection (i.c.v.) of BPA dose-dependently enhanced the AVPV-kisspeptin expression within 6 h, this was sensitive to E2 depletion by ovariectomy and an estrogen receptor α (ERα) antagonist. Similarly, the injection of BPA (i.c.v.) at proestrus could elevate the levels of plasma E2, LH, and Gnrh mRNA within 6 h in a dose-dependent manner, which was blocked by antagonists of GPR54 or ERα. Injection of BPA (i.c.v.) at proestrus failed to alter the timing and peak concentration of LH-surge generation. In ovariectomized mice, the application of E2 induced a dose-dependent increase in the AVPV-Kiss1 mRNA level, indicating ‘E2-induced positive feedback’, which was enhanced by BPA injection (i.c.v.). The levels of Erα (Esr1) and Erβ (Esr2) mRNAs in AVPV and ARC did not differ significantly between vehicle-and BPA-treated groups. This study provides in vivo evidence that exposure of adult female mice to a low dose of BPA disrupts the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal reproductive endocrine system through enhancing AVPV-kisspeptin expression and release.

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Danxing Wu, Chen Chen, Kazuo Katoh, Jin Zhang and Iain J. Clarke


A newly synthesised GH-releasing peptide, KP 102 (also named GHRP-2), was studied in an in vitro perifusion system of primary cultured ovine anterior pituitary cells. Application of KP 102 to the perifusion medium caused a dose-dependent increase in GH secretion. Dose-response relationships indicated that KP 102 had similar potency to GRF and was 10-fold more potent than earlier generations of GH-releasing peptide (GHRP-6 and GHRP-1) tested in same system. The response to a second application of KP 102 given within 1 h of initial application was significantly lower than the response to the first application. When KP 102 (or GRF) was applied first and then GRF (or KP 102) given 1 h later, the second response was not attenuated. When GRF and KP 102 were coadministered, an additive effect on release of GH was obtained. The effect of maximal dose of KP 102 (100nM) on GH release was totally abolished by [Ac-Tyr1, d-Arg2] GRF 1-29 (1μM) which is believed to be a specific antagonist for the GRF receptor. Blockade of Ca2+ channels by Cd2+ (2mM) diminished the basal GH secretion and abolished the increase in GH release in response to KP 102 (100nM). These data suggest that the action of KP 102 is blocked by a GRF receptor antagonist and therefore acts through a different receptor to that employed by earlier generations of GH-releasing peptides. GH release in response to KP 102 involves an increase in Ca2+ influx and there is no cross-desensitization between KP 102 and GRF responses.

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Lei Li, Ping Ma, Chen Huang, Yongjun Liu, Ye Zhang, Chen Gao, Tianxia Xiao, Pei-Gen Ren, Brian A Zabel and Jian V Zhang

The novel adipokine chemerin plays a role in the regulation of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, and recent reports of elevated chemerin levels in polycystic ovarian syndrome and preeclampsia have pointed to an emerging role of chemerin in reproduction. We hypothesised that chemerin, like other adipokines, may function to regulate male gonadal steroidogenesis. In this study, we show that chemerin and its three receptors chemokine-like receptor 1 (CMKLR1), G-protein-coupled receptor 1 (GPR1) and chemokine (C-C motif) receptor-like 2 were expressed in male reproductive tracts, liver and white adipose tissue. CMKLR1 and GPR1 proteins were localised specifically in the Leydig cells of human and rat testes by immunohistochemistry. The expression of chemerin and its receptors in rat testes was developmentally regulated and highly expressed in Leydig cells. In vitro treatment with chemerin suppressed the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)-induced testosterone production from primary Leydig cells, which was accompanied by the inhibition of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase gene and protein expression. The hCG-activated p44/42 MAPK (Erk1/2) pathway in Leydig cells was also inhibited by chemerin cotreatment. Together, these data suggest that chemerin is a novel regulator of male gonadal steroidogenesis.

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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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Wei Zhang, Xin-Hong Wang, Si-Feng Chen, Guo-Ping Zhang, Ning Lu, Ren-Ming Hu and Hui-Ming Jin

In this study, the effect of high glucose (HG) on endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) proliferation and its relationship with cyclins and reactive oxygen species (ROS) were investigated. Mouse EPCs were isolated from bone marrow using a magnetic activated cell-sorting system and cultured in the presence or absence of HG (30 mmol/l). We found that in the early stage of incubation (3 days), HG promoted cell proliferation, and increased the expressions of cdk2 and cyclin E, while in the late stage of culture (7 days) it inhibited cell proliferation and decreased the expressions of cdk2, cyclin E, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). Moreover, on the third day after incubation, HG significantly inhibited the apoptosis of EPCs, while in the late stage it markedly activated caspase-3 and promoted apoptosis. ROS generation in cells and maleic dialdehyde level in medium were significantly increased in HG group on the seventh day, whereas the expressions of superoxide dismutase and glutathione levels decreased. Tempol, a membrane-permeable radical scavenger, significantly inhibited ROS production in EPCs and partially reversed the HG-mediated inhibition of EPCs proliferation on the seventh day. We hypothesize that in the HG environment, the biphasic response of EPC proliferation may be related to the generation of ROS, which causes modulation of cyclins and cell cycle effect.

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Chang-Jiang Li, Hui-Wen Sun, Fa-Liang Zhu, Liang Chen, Yuan-Yuan Rong, Yun Zhang and Mei Zhang

In this study, we investigated the in vivo role of adiponectin, an adipocytokine, on the development of atherosclerosis in rabbits mainly using adenovirus expressing adiponectin gene (Ad-APN) and intravascular ultrasonography. Serum adiponectin concentrations in rabbits after Ad-APN local transfer to abdominal aortas increased about nine times as much as those before transfer (P < 0.01), about ten times as much as the levels of endogenous adiponectin in adenovirus expressing β-galactosidase gene (Ad-β gal) treated rabbits (P < 0.01), and about four times as much as those in the aorta of non-injured rabbits on a normal cholesterol diet (P < 0.01). Ultrasonography revealed a significantly reduced atherosclerotic plaque area in abdominal aortas of rabbits infected through intima with Ad-APN, by 35.2% compared with the area before treatment (P < 0.01), and by 35.8% compared with that in Ad-β gal-treated rabbits (P < 0.01). In rabbits infected through adventitia, Ad-APN treatment reduced plaque area by 28.9% as compared with the area before treatment (P < 0.01) and 25.6% compared with that in Ad-β gal-treated rabbits (P < 0.01). Adiponectin significantly suppressed the mRNA expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) by 18.5% through intima transfer (P < 0.05) and 26.9% through adventitia transfer (P < 0.01), and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) by 40.7% through intima transfer (P < 0.01), and 30.7% through adventitia transfer (P < 0.01). However, adiponectin had no effect on the expression of types I and III collagen. These results suggest that local adiponectin treatment suppresses the development of atherosclerosis in vivo in part by attenuating the expression of VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 in vascular walls.

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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.

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Yanbin Zheng, Wenshuo Zhang, Elisha Pendleton, Sanhua Leng, Jiong Wu, Ridong Chen and Xiao Jian Sun

Calorie restriction (CR) improves obesity-related insulin resistance through undefined molecular mechanisms. Insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 serine/threonine kinases have been proposed to modulate insulin sensitivity through phosphorylation of IRS proteins. The aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that changes in the activity of IRS1 serine/threonine kinases may underlie the molecular mechanism of CR in improving insulin sensitivity. Obese and lean Zucker rats were subjected to 40% CR or allowed to feed ad libitum (AL) for 20 weeks; body weight and insulin sensitivity were monitored throughout this period. The activity of IRS1 serine/threonine kinases – including JNK, ERK, MTOR/p70S6K (RPS6KB1 as listed in the MGI Database), glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3B), AMPK (PRKAA1 as listed in the MGI Database), and protein kinase Cθ (PRKCQ) in liver tissue extracts was measured by an in vitro kinase assay using various glutathione-S-transferase (GST)–IRS1 fragments as substrates, while phosphorylation of IRS1 and serine kinases was determined by western blotting using phosphospecific antibodies. CR in obese rats significantly reduced body weight and increased insulin sensitivity compared to AL controls. Serine kinase activity toward IRS1S612 (corresponding to S616 in human IRS1) and IRS1S632/635 (corresponding to S636/639 in human IRS1) was increased in obese rats compared to lean littermates, and was markedly decreased following CR. Concomitantly, obesity increased and CR decreased the activity of hepatic ERK and p70S6K against IRS1. The close association between the activity of hepatic ERK and p70S6K with insulin resistance suggests an important role for ERK and p70S6K in the development of insulin resistance, presumably via phosphorylation of IRS proteins.

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Xiaohui Wang, Yuxia Chen, Yan Wang, Xiaoyan Zhu, Yuanyuan Ma, Shimin Zhang and Jian Lu

Although glucocorticoid (GC) has been reported to inhibit macrophage killing activity and cytokine production in response to proinflammatory stimuli, the effect of GC on macrophage proliferation is controversial. In our previous study, we found that inhibition of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression in murine macrophage cell line RAW264.7 cells (RAW-GR(−) cells) by RNAi significantly promoted cell proliferation. In the present study, we provide the evidence that the expression of Rhob, a member of Rho GTPases with anti-cancer character, remarkably decreased in RAW-GR(−) and RAW264.7 cells transiently transfected with GR-RNAi vector. Overexpression or constitutive activation of Rhob in RAW-GR(−) and RAW264.7 cells by transfection with wild-type Rhob expression vector (Rhob-wt) or constitutively activated Rhob plasmid (Rhob-V14) resulted in decreased proliferation of the two cell lines. Oppositely, the proliferation of RAW264.7 cells was significantly increased when the expression of Rhob by RNA interference technique or the activity of Rhob by transfection with dominant negative Rhob mutant that is defective in nucleotide binding (Rhob-N19) was inhibited. In addition, enhanced activity of Akt, but not MAPK3/1 or MAPK14, was found in RAW-GR(−) cells. Blocking the pathway of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt with the specific inhibitor LY294002 decreased the proliferation and elevated RHOB protein level, indicating that PI3K/Akt signal plays its role of proliferation modulation upstream of RHOB protein. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that Rhob plays an important role in the antiproliferative effect of GR on RAW264.7 cells by GR→Akt→Rhob signaling and Rhob negatively regulates the proliferation of RAW264.7 cells.

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D Wu, C Chen, J Zhang, C Y Bowers and I J Clarke


The mechanism of action of GH-releasing peptide-6 (GHRP-6) and GHRP-2 on GH release was investigated in ovine and rat pituitary cells in vitro. In partially purified sheep somatotrophs, GHRP-2 and GH-releasing factor (GRF) increased intracellular cyclic AMP (cAMP) concentrations and caused GH release in a dose-dependent manner; GHRP-6 did not increase cAMP levels. An additive effect of maximal doses of GRF and GHRP-2 was observed in both cAMP and GH levels whereas combined GHRP-6 and GHRP-2 at maximal doses produced an additive effect on GH release only. Pretreatment of the cells with MDL 12,330A, an adenylyl cyclase inhibitor, prevented cAMP accumulation and the subsequent release of GH that was caused by either GHRP-2 or GRF. The cAMP antagonist, Rp-cAMP also blocked GH release in response to GHRP-2 and GRF. The cAMP antagonist did not prevent the effect of GHRP-6 on GH secretion whereas MDL 12,330A partially reduced the effect. An antagonist for the GRF receptor, [Ac-Tyr1,d-Arg2]-GRF 1–29, significantly diminished the effect of GHRP-2 and GRF on cAMP accumulation and GH release, but did not affect GH release induced by GHRP-6. Somatostatin prevented cAMP accumulation and GH release responses to GHRP-2, GRF and GHRP-6. Ca2+ channel blockade did not affect the cAMP increase in response to GHRP-2 or GRF but totally prevented GH release in response to GHRP-2, GRF and GHRP-6. These results indicated that GHRP-2 acts on ovine pituitary somatotrophs to increase cAMP concentration in a manner similar to that of GRF; this occurs even during the blockade of Ca2+ influx. GHRP-6 caused GH release without an increase in intracellular cAMP levels. GH release in response to all three secretagogues was reduced by somatostatin and was dependent upon the influx of extracellular Ca2+. The additive effect of GHRP-2 and GRF or GHRP-6 suggested that the three peptides may act on different receptors. In rat pituitary cell cultures, GHRP-6 had no effect on cAMP levels, but potentiated the effect of GRF on cAMP accumulation. The synergistic effect of GRF and GHRP-6 on cAMP accumulation did not occur in sheep somatotrophs. Whereas GHRP-2 caused cAMP accumulation in sheep somatotrophs, it did not do so in rat pituitary cells. These data indicate species differences in the response of pituitary somatotrophs to the GHRPs and this is probably due to different subtypes of GHRP receptor in rat or sheep.

Journal of Endocrinology (1996) 148, 197–205