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C Giuliani, M Saji, I Bucci, G Fiore, M Liberatore, D S Singer, F Monaco, L D Kohn and G Napolitano

Increased major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I gene expression in nonimmune cell ‘target tissues’ involved in organ-specific diseases may be important in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. This possibility in part evolves from studies of cultured thyrocytes where properties appear relevant to the development of thyroid autoimmune disease. In FRTL-5 rat thyroid cells in continuous culture, hormones and growth factors that regulate cell growth and function specifically decrease MHC class I gene expression. We hypothesized that this could reflect a mechanism to preserve self-tolerance and prevent autoimmune disease. The mechanisms of action of some of these hormones, namely TSH and hydrocortisone, have been already characterized. In this report, we show that IGF-I transcriptionally downregulates MHC class I gene expression and that its action is similar to that of insulin. The two hormones have a complex effect on the promoter of the MHC class I gene, PD1. In fact, they decrease the full promoter activity, but upregulate the activity of deleted mutants that have lost an upstream, tissue-specific regulatory region but still retain the enhancer A region. We show that insulin/IGF-I promotes the interactions of the p50/p65 subunits of NF-κB and AP-1 family members with these two regions, and that the tissue-specific region acts as a dominant silencer element on insulin/IGF-I regulation of promoter activity. These observations may be important to understand how MHC class I gene transcription is regulated in the cells.

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T Okada, N Matsuzaki, K Sawai, T Nobunaga, K Shimoya, K Suzuki, N Taniguchi, F Saji and Y Murata

Chorioamnionitis has been shown to be one of the most important factors in inducing preterm delivery. The present study was undertaken to examine the effects of chorioamnionitis on placental endocrine functions. Preterm placentas with histologic chorioamnionitis produced smaller amounts of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and human placental lactogen (hPL) than those without chorioamnionitis (P < 0.001). To examine the mechanism involved in the suppression of placental endocrine functions induced by chorioamnionitis, we initially confirmed the expression of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) receptor, i.e. the CD14 molecule, on trophoblasts by Northern blot analysis and immunohistochemistry. We then stimulated purified trophoblasts with LPS, which is the major agent which induces inflammatory responses in the host via the LPS receptor. The trophoblasts stimulated with LPS produced reduced amounts of hCG, hPL, and progesterone in a time- and dose-dependent fashion in spite of the induced manganese-superoxide dismutase (SOD) synthesis. Stimulation of trophoblasts with hypoxanthine and xanthine oxidase resulted in suppressed hCG production, while the simultaneous addition of SOD into the culture medium reversed the suppression of hCG production. LPS in the placenta with chorioamnionitis might directly stimulate trophoblasts through the LPS receptor (CD14), thus reducing placental endocrine functions. Superoxide anions which exogenously act on trophoblasts might be generated by simultaneous stimulation of neutrophils and monocytes at the feto-maternal interface by LPS, and additively reduce placental endocrine functions.

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S Phaneuf, G Asbóth, M P Carrasco, G N Europe-Finner, F Saji, T Kimura, A Harris and A López Bernal


We have recently provided evidence for the desensitization of oxytocin receptors in human myometrial cells. In the present study, we have investigated the possible mechanisms by which oxytocin (OT) might regulate OT receptor density. The steady state level of OT binding in cultured myometrial cells was 220 × 103 binding sites/cell, but this was time-dependently reduced to 27 × 103 sites/cell by exposure to OT for up to 20 h. Similarly, OT exposure decreased the binding of OT to cell membranes. In contrast, Western blotting data showed that the total amount of OT receptor protein was not affected by OT treatment for up to 48 h. Flow cytometry experiments demonstrated that OT receptors are not internalized during prolonged exposure of the cells to OT. However, RNase protection assays and Northern analysis showed that OT receptor mRNA was reduced by OT treatment to reach a new low steady state level with a time course similar to that of the disappearance of cell surface OT binding sites. Possible mechanisms involved in mRNA down-regulation include transcriptional suppression and destabilization of mRNA by RNA binding proteins.

Journal of Endocrinology (1997) 154, 7–18