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Margo P Emont, Hui Yu and Jun Wu

Obesity and its associated metabolic diseases present a major public health problem around the world. The discovery that thermogenic fat is active in adult humans has sparked a renewal of interest in the study of its development and function and in the feasibility of using modulators of thermogenesis to work against obesity. In recent years, it has been shown that there are at least two distinct types of thermogenic fat cells: brown and beige fat. In this review, we discuss the transcriptional mediators of thermogenesis and the signaling molecules that regulate thermogenic cells. We also review the effects of thermogenic fat activation on whole-body metabolic parameters and evaluate the increasing evidence that activating thermogenesis in humans can be a viable method of ameliorating obesity. In these discussions, we highlight targets that can potentially be stimulated or modified in anti-obesity treatments.

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Run Yu, Martha Cruz-Soto, Sergio Li Calzi, Hongxiang Hui and Shlomo Melmed

Human pituitary tumor-transforming gene 1 (PTTG1) encodes a securin protein critically important in regulating chromosome separation. Murine PTTG (mPTTG) is 66% homologous to human PTTG1 and PTTG-null (PTTG−/−) mice exhibit pancreatic β-cell hypoplasia and abnormal nuclear morphology with resultant diabetes. As we show that ductal β-cell neogenesis is intact in PTTG−/− mice, we explored mechanism for defective β-cell replication. We tested whether mPTTG exhibits securin properties in mouse insulin-secreting insulinoma MIN6 cells, using a live-cell system to monitor mitosis in cells transfected with an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)-tagged mPTTG conjugate (mPTTG-EGFP). To fulfill the criteria for securin properties, the protein should undergo degradation immediately before the metaphase-to-anaphase transition when expression levels are low, and should inhibit metaphase-to-anaphase transition when expression levels are high. EGFP itself did not undergo degradation throughout mitosis and high levels of EGFP per se did not affect normal mitosis progression (n=25). However, mPTTG-EGFP was degraded 2 min before the metaphase-to-anaphase transition when expression levels were low (n=19), and high mPTTG-EGFP levels blocked metaphase-to-anaphase transition in 13 cells. mPTTG-EGFP inhibited MIN6 cell proliferation and caused apoptosis. Immunocoprecipitation demonstrated binding of mPTTG-EGFP and separase. These results show that mPTTG exhibits properties consistent with a murine securin in insulin-secreting mouse cells and mPTTG overexpression inhibits cell proliferation, suggesting that defective β-cell proliferation observed in PTTG−/− mice is likely due to abnormal cell-cycle progression.

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Hui-Fang Wang, Qing-Qing Yu, Rui-Fang Zheng and Ming Xu

Cardiovascular complications of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are associated with vascular remodeling in the arteries. Perivascular sympathetic neurons release an abundance of trophic factors to regulate vascular function via a paracrine signaling. Netrin-1, a diffusible protein that can be secreted outside the cell, is one of common signals of ‘conversation’ between nerve and vessel. The present study investigated whether netrin-1 is a novel modulator of sympathetic neurons paracrine signaling and played a critical role in vascular adventitial remodeling under T2DM. Vascular adventitial remodeling was observed in adventitial fibroblasts (AFs) responding to netrin-1 deficiency in the supernatant from primary rat superior cervical ganglia (SCG) neurons, shown as AFs proliferation, migration, and collagen deposition. Conditioned medium from the high glucose (HG)-treated SCG neurons contributed to AFs remodeling, which was effectively alleviated by exogenous netrin-1 supplementation. Further, it was found that uncoordinated-5-B (Unc5b) was mainly expressed in AFs among netrin-1 specific receptors. Treatment of netrin-1 inhibited H2O2 production derived from NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4) through the UNC5b/CAMP/PKA signal pathway in AFs remodeling. In vivo, aorta adventitial remodeling was accompanied with the downregulation of netrin-1 in the perivascular sympathetic nerve in T2DM rats. Such abnormalities were restored by netrin-1 intervention, which was associated with the inhibition of NOX4 expression in the aorta adventitia. In conclusion, netrin-1 is a novel modulator of sympathetic neurons paracrine signaling to maintain AFs function. Vascular adventitial remodeling was aggravated by sympathetic neurons paracrine signaling under hyperglycemia, which was ameliorated by netrin-1 treatment through the UNC5b/CAMP/PKA/NOX4 pathway.

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Hui Yu, Zoe Thompson, Sylee Kiran, Graham L Jones, Lakshmi Mundada, Surbhi Gahlot, Marcelo Rubinstein and Malcolm J Low

Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC) are essential for normal energy homeostasis. Maximal ARC Pomc transcription is dependent on neuronal Pomc enhancer 1 (nPE1), located 12kb upstream from the promoter. Selective deletion of nPE1 in mice decreases ARC Pomc expression by 70%, sufficient to induce mild obesity. Because nPE1 is located exclusively in the genomes of placental mammals, we questioned whether its hypomorphic mutation would also alter placental Pomc expression and the metabolic adaptations associated with pregnancy and lactation. We assessed placental development, pup growth, circulating leptin and expression of Pomc, Agrp and alternatively spliced Leptin receptor (LepR) isoforms in the ARC and placenta of Pomc∆1/∆1 and Pomc+/+ dams. Despite indistinguishable body weights, lean mass, food intake, placental histology and Pomc expression and overall pregnancy outcomes between the genotypes, Pomc∆1/∆1 females had increased pre-pregnancy fat mass that paradoxically decreased to control levels by parturition. However, Pomc∆1/∆1 dams had exaggerated increases in circulating leptin, up to twice that of the typically elevated levels in Pomc+/+ mice at the end of pregnancy, despite their equivalent fat mass. Pomc∆1/∆1 dams also had increased placental expression of soluble leptin receptor (LepRe), although the protein levels of LepRe in circulation were the same as Pomc+/+ controls. Together, these data suggest that the hypomorphic Pomc∆1/∆1 allele is responsible for the perinatal super hyperleptinemia of Pomc∆1/∆1 dams, possibly due to upregulated leptin secretion from individual adipocytes.

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Hong-Hui Wang, Qian Cui, Teng Zhang, Lei Guo, Ming-Zhe Dong, Yi Hou, Zhen-Bo Wang, Wei Shen, Jun-Yu Ma and Qing-Yuan Sun

As a fat storage organ, adipose tissue is distributed widely all over the body and is important for energy supply, body temperature maintenance, organ protection, immune regulation and so on. In humans, both underweight and overweight women find it hard to become pregnant, which suggests that appropriate fat storage can guarantee the female reproductive capacity. In fact, a large mass of adipose tissue distributes around the reproductive system both in the male and female. However, the functions of ovary fat pad (the nearest adipose tissue to ovary) are not known. In our study, we found that the ovary fat pad-removed female mice showed decreased fertility and less ovulated mature eggs. We further identified that only a small proportion of follicles developed to antral follicle, and many follicles were blocked at the secondary follicle stage. The overall secretion levels of estrogen and FSH were lower in the whole estrus cycle (especially at proestrus); however, the LH level was higher in ovary fat pad-removed mice than that in control groups. Moreover, the estrus cycle of ovary fat pad-removed mice showed significant disorder. Besides, the expression of FSH receptor decreased, but the LH receptor increased in ovary fat pad-removed mice. These results suggest that ovary fat pad is important for mouse reproduction.

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Yan-Hong Bu, Yu-Ling He, Hou-De Zhou, Wei Liu, Dan Peng, Ai-Guo Tang, Ling-Li Tang, Hui Xie, Qiu-Xia Huang, Xiang-Hang Luo and Er-Yuan Liao

Insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1) is an essential molecule for the intracellular signaling of IGF1 and insulin, which are potent anabolic regulators of bone metabolism. Osteoblastic IRS1 is essential for maintaining bone turnover; however, the mechanism underlying this regulation remains unclear. To clarify the role of IRS1 in bone metabolism, we employed RNA interference to inhibit IRS1 gene expression and observed the effects of silencing this gene on the proliferation and differentiation of and the expression of matrix metallopeptidase (MMP) and tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, member 11b (TNFRSF11B) in MC3T3-E1 cells. Our results showed that IRS1 short hairpin RNAs can effectively suppress the expression of IRS1, and inhibit the phosphorylation of AKT in IRS1 pathway; reduce the expression of MMP2, MMP3, MMP13, and MMP14, decrease the expression of TNFRSF11B and RANKL (also known as tumor necrosis factor (ligand) superfamily, member 11), however increase the RANKL/TNFRSF11B ratio; decrease cell survival, proliferation, and mineralization, and impair the differentiation of MC3T3-E1 cells. The downregulation of IRS1 had no effect on the expression of MMP1. Our findings suggest that IRS1 not only promotes bone formation and mineralization but also might play roles in bone resorption partly via the regulation of MMPs and RANKL/TNFRSF11B ratio, thus regulates the bone turnover.