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Yuqing Wu, Yinyan Xu, Hong Zhou, Jin Tao, and Shengnan Li

Urocortin (UCN), a newly identified, 40-amino-acid, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) structurally related peptide, has been demonstrated to be expressed in the central nervous system and many peripheral tissues of rats and man. This study aimed to investigate the expression profile of UCN in rat lung and the effect of UCN on lung vascular permeability. The expression of UCN mRNA was detected by reverse transcriptase PCR (RT–PCR). UCN peptide was measured by immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. We found that both UCN mRNA and peptide were obviously expressed in rat lung. Immunohistochemistry results showed that UCN peptide is mainly expressed in bronchial epithelium mucosa and alveolar epithelium. We also found that rats receiving inhalation aerosol of UCN had a significant elevation of lung vascular permeability compared with rats receiving vehicle and ovalbumin (OVA) by the Evans blue (EB) technique. UCN aerosol inhalation resulted in obvious pulmonary congestion and edema observed under light microscope by hematoxylin and eosin (HE) staining. The nonselective peptide CRH receptor antagonist astressin markedly reduced lung vascular permeability triggered by UCN. Enhanced pulmonary vascular permeability induced by UCN was markedly inhibited by pretreatment with the mast-cell stabilizer cromolyn and histamine-1 (H1) receptor antagonist azelastine respectively, but not by the leukotriene receptor antagonist montelukast. In summary, in the present study, we demonstrated for the first time that UCN is expressed in rat lung and contributes to an increase in lung vascular permeability through activation of CRH receptors. Mast cells and histamine may be involved in this effect of UCN. Peripherally produced UCN in lung may act as an autocrine and paracrine proinflammatory factor.

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Xin-gang Yao, Xin Xu, Gai-hong Wang, Min Lei, Ling-ling Quan, Yan-hua Cheng, Ping Wan, Jin-pei Zhou, Jing Chen, Li-hong Hu, and Xu Shen

Impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) and increasing β-cell death are two typical dysfunctions of pancreatic β-cells in individuals that are destined to develop type 2 diabetes, and improvement of β-cell function through GSIS enhancement and/or inhibition of β-cell death is a promising strategy for anti-diabetic therapy. In this study, we discovered that the small molecule, N-(2-benzoylphenyl)-5-bromo-2-thiophenecarboxamide (BBT), was effective in both potentiating GSIS and protecting β-cells from cytokine- or streptozotocin (STZ)-induced cell death. Results of further studies revealed that cAMP/PKA and long-lasting (L-type) voltage-dependent Ca2 + channel/CaMK2 pathways were involved in the action of BBT against GSIS, and that the cAMP/PKA pathway was essential for the protective action of BBT on β-cells. An assay using the model of type 2 diabetic mice induced by high-fat diet combined with STZ (STZ/HFD) demonstrated that BBT administration efficiently restored β-cell functions as indicated by the increased plasma insulin level and decrease in the β-cell loss induced by STZ/HFD. Moreover, the results indicated that BBT treatment decreased fasting blood glucose and HbA1c and improved oral glucose tolerance further highlighting the potential of BBT in anti-hyperglycemia research.

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Hong Xu, Yang Zhou, Yongxia Liu, Jian Ping, Qiyang Shou, Fangming Chen, and Ru Ruo

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and cirrhosis are strongly associated with insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. To date, the influence of metformin on glycogen synthesis in the liver is controversial. Limited studies have evaluated the effect of metformin on hepatic insulin signaling pathway in vivo. In this study, an insulin-resistant rat model of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and cirrhosis was developed by high-fat and high-sucrose diet feeding in combination with subcutaneous injection of carbon tetrachloride. Liver tissues of the model rats were featured with severe steatosis and cirrhosis, accompanied by impaired liver function and antioxidant capacity. The glucose tolerance was impaired, and the index of insulin resistance was increased significantly compared with the control. The content of hepatic glycogen was dramatically decreased. The expression of insulin receptor β (IRβ); phosphorylations of IRβ, insulin receptor substrate 2 (IRS2), and Akt; and activities of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and glycogen synthase (GS) in the liver were significantly decreased, whereas the activities of glycogen synthase kinase 3α (GSK3α) and glycogen phosphorylase a (GPa) were increased. Metformin treatment remarkably improved liver function, alleviated lipid peroxidation and histological damages of the liver, and ameliorated glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. Metfromin also significantly upregulated the expression of IRβ; increased the phosphorylations of IRβ, IRS2, and Akt; increased the activities of PI3K and GS; and decreased GSK3α and GPa activities. In conclusion, our study suggests that metformin upregulates IRβ expression and the downstream IRS2/PI3K/Akt signaling transduction, therefore, to increase hepatic glycogen storage and improve insulin resistance. These actions may be attributed to the improved liver histological alterations by metformin.

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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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Tong Sun, Wen-Bo Deng, Hong-Lu Diao, Hua Ni, Yu-Yan Bai, Xing-Hong Ma, Li-Bin Xu, and Zeng-Ming Yang

Prostaglandin (PGE) 2 is the most common prostanoid and plays an important role in female reproduction. The aim of this study was to examine the expression and regulation of microsomal (m) PGE synthase (PGES)-1 and cytosolic (c) PGES in the mouse ovary during sexual maturation, gonadotropin treatment and luteal development by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Both mPGES-1 mRNA signals and immunostaining were localized in the granulosa cells, but not in the thecal cells and oocytes. cPGES mRNA signals were localized in both granulosa cells and oocytes, whereas cPGES immunostaining was exclusively localized in the oocytes. In our superovulated model of immature mice, there was a basal level of mPGES-1 mRNA signals in the granulosa cells at 48 h after equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) treatment. mPGES-1 mRNA level was induced by human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) treatment for 0.5 h, whereas mPGES-1 immunostaining was slightly induced at 0.5 h after hCG treatment and reached a maximal level at 3 h after hCG treatment. eCG treatment had no obvious effects on either cPGES mRNA signals or immunostaining. A strong level of cPGES immunostaining was present in both unstimulated and eCG-treated groups. Both mPGES-1 mRNA signals and immunostaining were highly detected in the corpus luteum 2 days post-hCG injection and declined from days 3 to 7 post-hCG injection. cPGES immunostaining was at a basal level or not detectable from days 1 to 7 after hCG injection and was highly expressed in the corpus luteum from days 9 to 15 post-hCG injection. PGE2 biosynthesized through the mPGES-1 pathway may be important for follicular development, ovulation and luteal formation.

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Yujiao Dai, Peng Hao, Zhimei Sun, Zhiyi Guo, Hong Xu, Lihui Xue, Hongyu Song, Yida Li, Shuang Li, Mingming Gao, Teng Si, Yuxin Zhang, and Yajuan Qi

Yes-associated protein (YAP), as a co-activator of transcription factors, is a downstream protein in the Hippo signaling pathway with important functions in cell proliferation, apoptosis, invasion and migration. YAP also plays a key role in the development of CCl4 induced liver fibrosis. However, the mechanism of YAP during the hepatic fibrosis progression and reversion is still unclear. Mild liver fibrosis was developed after 4M (month) high fat diet (HFD) stimulation, and we found that YAP signaling pathway was activated. Here, we aimed to reveal whether liver specifically knockout of YAP gene in the liver can improve liver fibrosis induced by insulin resistance (IR) using HFD stimulation, and further to explain its specific mechanism. We found that liver specific YAP gene knock-out improved IR-induced liver fibrosis and liver dysfunction, which mechanism is related to the inhibition of insulin signal pathway at FoxO1 level. These findings provide a new idea, and YAP is expected to be a new target to reverse the early stage of liver fibrosis induced by IR.

Free access

Jiean Xu, Qiuhua Yang, Xiaoyu Zhang, Zhiping Liu, Yapeng Cao, Lina Wang, Yaqi Zhou, Xianqiu Zeng, Qian Ma, Yiming Xu, Yong Wang, Lei Huang, Zhen Han, Tao Wang, David Stepp, Zsolt Bagi, Chaodong Wu, Mei Hong, and Yuqing Huo

Insulin resistance-related disorders are associated with endothelial dysfunction. Accumulating evidence has suggested a role for adenosine signaling in the regulation of endothelial function. Here, we identified a crucial role of endothelial adenosine kinase (ADK) in the regulation of insulin resistance. Feeding mice with a high-fat diet (HFD) markedly enhanced the expression of endothelial Adk. Ablation of endothelial Adk in HFD-fed mice improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity and decreased hepatic steatosis, adipose inflammation and adiposity, which were associated with improved arteriole vasodilation, decreased inflammation and increased adipose angiogenesis. Mechanistically, ADK inhibition or knockdown in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) elevated intracellular adenosine level and increased endothelial nitric oxide synthase (NOS3) activity, resulting in an increase in nitric oxide (NO) production. Antagonism of adenosine receptor A2b abolished ADK-knockdown-enhanced NOS3 expression in HUVECs. Additionally, increased phosphorylation of NOS3 in ADK-knockdown HUVECs was regulated by an adenosine receptor-independent mechanism. These data suggest that Adk-deficiency-elevated intracellular adenosine in endothelial cells ameliorates diet-induced insulin resistance and metabolic disorders, and this is associated with an enhancement of NO production caused by increased NOS3 expression and activation. Therefore, ADK is a potential target for the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders associated with insulin resistance.

Free access

Anna E Bollag, Tianyang Guo, Ke-Hong Ding, Vivek Choudhary, Xunsheng Chen, Qing Zhong, Jianrui Xu, Kanglun Yu, Mohamed E Awad, Mohammed Elsalanty, Maribeth H Johnson, Meghan E McGee-Lawrence, Wendy B Bollag, and Carlos M Isales

Osteoporosis, low bone mass that increases fracture susceptibility, affects approximately 75 million individuals in the United States, Europe and Japan, with the number of osteoporotic fractures expected to increase by more than three-fold over the next 50 years. Bone mass declines with age, although the mechanisms for this decrease are unclear. Aging enhances production of reactive oxygen species, which can affect bone formation and breakdown. The multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera contains dimethylfumarate, which is rapidly metabolized to monomethylfumarate (MMF); MMF is thought to function through nuclear factor erythroid-derived-2-like-2 (NRF2), a transcription factor activated by oxidative stress which induces the expression of endogenous anti-oxidant systems. We hypothesized that MMF-elicited increases in anti-oxidants would inhibit osteopenia induced by ovariectomy, as a model of aging-related osteoporosis and high oxidative stress. We demonstrated that MMF activated NRF2 and induced anti-oxidant NRF2 target gene expression in bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. Sham-operated or ovariectomized adult female mice were fed chow with or without MMF and various parameters were monitored. Ovariectomy produced the expected effects, decreasing bone mineral density and increasing body weight, fat mass, bone marrow adiposity and serum receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa-B ligand (RANKL) levels. MMF decreased fat but not lean mass. MMF improved trabecular bone microarchitecture after adjustment for body weight, although the unadjusted data showed few differences; MMF also tended to increase adjusted cortical bone and to reduce bone marrow adiposity and serum RANKL levels. Because these results suggest the possibility that MMF might be beneficial for bone, further investigation seems warranted.

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Wang-Yang Xu, Yan Shen, Houbao Zhu, Junhui Gao, Chen Zhang, Lingyun Tang, Shun-Yuan Lu, Chun-Ling Shen, Hong-Xin Zhang, Ziwei Li, Peng Meng, Ying-Han Wan, Jian Fei, and Zhu-Gang Wang

Obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) are both complicated endocrine disorders resulting from an interaction between multiple predisposing genes and environmental triggers, while diet and exercise have key influence on metabolic disorders. Previous reports demonstrated that 2-aminoadipic acid (2-AAA), an intermediate metabolite of lysine metabolism, could modulate insulin secretion and predict T2D, suggesting the role of 2-AAA in glycolipid metabolism. Here, we showed that treatment of diet-induced obesity (DIO) mice with 2-AAA significantly reduced body weight, decreased fat accumulation and lowered fasting glucose. Furthermore, Dhtkd1−/− mice, in which the substrate of DHTKD1 2-AAA increased to a significant high level, were resistant to DIO and obesity-related insulin resistance. Further study showed that 2-AAA induced higher energy expenditure due to increased adipocyte thermogenesis via upregulating PGC1α and UCP1 mediated by β3AR activation, and stimulated lipolysis depending on enhanced expression of hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) through activating β3AR signaling. Moreover, 2-AAA could alleviate the diabetic symptoms of db/db mice. Our data showed that 2-AAA played an important role in regulating glycolipid metabolism independent of diet and exercise, implying that improving the level of 2-AAA in vivo could be developed as a strategy in the treatment of obesity or diabetes.

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Jessica L Pierce, Ke-Hong Ding, Jianrui Xu, Anuj K Sharma, Kanglun Yu, Natalia del Mazo Arbona, Zuleika Rodríguez-Santos, Paul J Bernard, Wendy B Bollag, Maribeth H Johnson, Mark W Hamrick, Dana L Begun, Xing-Ming Shi, Carlos M Isales, and Meghan E McGee-Lawrence

Excess fat within bone marrow is associated with lower bone density. Metabolic stressors such as chronic caloric restriction (CR) can exacerbate marrow adiposity, and increased glucocorticoid signaling and adrenergic signaling are implicated in this phenotype. The current study tested the role of glucocorticoid signaling in CR-induced stress by conditionally deleting the glucocorticoid receptor (Nr3c1; hereafter abbreviated as GR) in bone marrow osteoprogenitors (Osx1-Cre) of mice subjected to CR and ad libitum diets. Conditional knockout of the GR (GR-CKO) reduced cortical and trabecular bone mass as compared to WT mice under both ad libitum feeding and CR conditions. No interaction was detected between genotype and diet, suggesting that the GR is not required for CR-induced skeletal changes. The lower bone mass in GR-CKO mice, and the further decrease in bone by CR, resulted from suppressed bone formation. Interestingly, treatment with the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist propranolol mildly but selectively improved metrics of cortical bone mass in GR-CKO mice during CR, suggesting interaction between adrenergic and glucocorticoid signaling pathways that affects cortical bone. GR-CKO mice dramatically increased marrow fat under both ad libitum and CR-fed conditions, and surprisingly propranolol treatment was unable to rescue CR-induced marrow fat in either WT or GR-CKO mice. Additionally, serum corticosterone levels were selectively elevated in GR-CKO mice with CR, suggesting the possibility of bone–hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal crosstalk during metabolic stress. This work highlights the complexities of glucocorticoid and β-adrenergic signaling in stress-induced changes in bone mass, and the importance of GR function in suppressing marrow adipogenesis while maintaining healthy bone mass.