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Damien J Keating and Chen Chen

Activin A is a member of the transforming growth factor-β family and has known roles in the adrenal cortex, from which activin A is secreted. We aimed to find whether activin A induces secretion of catecholamines from chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla, which neighbours the adrenal cortex in vivo. Using carbon fibre amperometry, we were able to measure catecholamine secretion in real-time from single chromaffin cells dissociated from the rat adrenal medulla. Activin A stimulated catecholamine secretion in a rapid and dose-dependent manner from chromaffin cells. This effect was fully reversible upon washout of activin A. The minimum dose at which activin A had a maximal effect was 2 nM, with an EC50 of 1.1 nM. The degree of secretion induced by activin A (2 nM) was smaller than that due to membrane depolarization caused by an increase in the external K+ concentration from 5 to 70 mM. No response to activin A was seen when Ca2+ channels were blocked by Cd2+ (200 μM). We conclude from these findings that activin A is capable of stimulating a robust level of catecholamine secretion from adrenal chromaffin cells in a concentration-dependent manner. This occurs via the opening of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels, causing Ca2+ entry, thereby triggering exocytosis. These findings illustrate a new physiological role of activin A and a new mechanism in the control of catecholamine secretion from the adrenal medulla.

Open access

Alyce M Martin, Emily W Sun, and Damien J Keating

The homoeostatic regulation of metabolism is highly complex and involves multiple inputs from both the nervous and endocrine systems. The gut is the largest endocrine organ in our body and synthesises and secretes over 20 different hormones from enteroendocrine cells that are dispersed throughout the gut epithelium. These hormones include GLP-1, PYY, GIP, serotonin, and CCK, each of which play pivotal roles in maintaining energy balance and glucose homeostasis. Some are now the basis of several clinically used glucose-lowering and weight loss therapies. The environment in which these enteroendocrine cells exist is also complex, as they are exposed to numerous physiological inputs including ingested nutrients, circulating factors and metabolites produced from neighbouring gut microbiome. In this review, we examine the diverse means by which gut-derived hormones carry out their metabolic functions through their interactions with different metabolically important organs including the liver, pancreas, adipose tissue and brain. Furthermore, we discuss how nutrients and microbial metabolites affect gut hormone secretion and the mechanisms underlying these interactions.

Free access

Dan-Dan Feng, Yu-Feng Zhao, Zi-Qiang Luo, Damien J Keating, and Chen Chen

Free fatty acids (FFAs) regulate insulin secretion in a complex pattern and induce pancreatic β-cell dysfunction in type 2 diabetes. Voltage-dependent Ca2 + channels (VDCC) in β-cells play a major role in regulating insulin secretion. The aim of present study is to clarify the action of the FFA, linoleic acid, on VDCC in β-cells. The VDCC current in primary cultured rat β-cells were recorded under nystatin-perforated whole-cell recording configuration. The VDCC was identified as high-voltage-gated Ca2 + channels due to there being no difference in current amplitude under holding potential between −70 and −40 mV. Linoleic acid (10 μM) significantly inhibited VDCC currents in β-cells, an effect which was fully reversible upon washout. Methyl-linoleic acid, which does not activate G protein coupled receptor (GPR)40, neither did alter VDCC current in rat β-cells nor did influence linoleic acid-induced inhibition of VDCC currents. Linoleic acid-induced inhibition of VDCC current was not blocked by preincubation of β-cells with either the specific protein kinase A (PKA) inhibitor, H89, or the PKC inhibitor, chelerythrine. However, pretreatment of β-cells with thapsigargin, which depletes intracellular Ca2+ stores, completely abolished linoleic acid-induced decrease in VDCC current. Measurement of intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) illustrated that linoleic acid induced an increase in [Ca2+]i and that thapsigargin pretreatment inhibited this increase. Methyl-linoleic acid neither did induce increase in [Ca2+]i nor did it block linoleic acid-induced increase in [Ca2+]i. These results suggest that linoleic acid stimulates Ca2+ release from intracellular Ca2+ stores and inhibits VDCC currents in rat pancreatic β-cells via Ca2+-induced inactivation of VDCC.

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Hamzeh Karimkhanloo, Stacey N Keenan, Emily W Sun, David A Wattchow, Damien J Keating, Magdalene K Montgomery, and Matthew J. Watt

Cathepsin S (CTSS) is a cysteine protease that regulates many physiological processes and is increased in obesity and type 2 diabetes. While previous studies show that deletion of CTSS improves glycemic control through suppression of hepatic glucose output, little is known about the role of circulating CTSS in regulating glucose and energy metabolism. We assessed the effects of recombinant CTSS on metabolism in cultured hepatocytes, myotubes and adipocytes, and in mice following acute CTSS administration. CTSS improved glucose tolerance in lean mice and this coincided with increased plasma insulin. CTSS reduced G6pc and Pck1 mRNA expression and glucose output from hepatocytes but did not affect glucose metabolism in myotubes or adipocytes. CTSS did not affect insulin secretion from pancreatic beta-cells, rather CTSS stimulated glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 secretion from intestinal mucosal tissues. CTSS retained its positive effects on glycemic control in mice injected the GLP-1 receptor antagonist exendin (9-39) amide. The effects of CTSS on glycemic control were not retained in high-fat fed mice or db/db mice, despite the preservation of CTSS’ inhibitory actions on hepatic glucose output in isolated primary hepatocytes. In conclusion, we unveil a role for CTSS in the regulation of glycemic control via direct effects on hepatocytes, and that these effects on glycemic control are abrogated in insulin resistant states.