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E Kim, S Sohn, M Lee, J Jung, R D Kineman and S Park

The impact of streptozotocin (STZ)-induced, insulinopenic diabetes on the GH axis of rats and mice differs from study to study, where this variation may be related to the induction scheme, severity of the diabetes and/or the genetic background of the animal model used. In order to begin differentiate between these possibilities, we compared the effects of two different STZ induction schemes on the GH axis of male Sprague–Dawley rats: (1) a single high-dose injection of STZ (HI STZ, 80 mg/kg, i.p.), which results in rapid chemical destruction of the pancreatic β-cells, and (2) multiple low-dose injections of STZ (LO STZ, 20 mg/kg for 5 consecutive days, i.p.), which results in a gradual, autoimmune destruction of β-cells. STZ-treated animals were killed after 3 weeks of hyperglycemia (>400 mg/dl), and in both paradigms circulating insulin levels were reduced to <40% of vehicle-treated controls. HI STZ-treated rats lost weight, while body weights of LO STZ-treated animals gradually increased over time, similar to vehicle-treated controls. As previously reported, HI STZ resulted in a decrease in circulating GH and IGF-I levels which was associated with a rise in hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY) mRNA (355% of vehicle-treated controls) and a fall in GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) mRNA (45% of vehicle-treated controls) levels. Changes in hypothalamic neuropeptide expression were reflected by an increase in immunoreactive NPY within the arcuate and paraventricular nuclei and a decrease in GHRH immunoreactivity in the arcuate nucleus, as assessed by immunohistochemistry. Consistent with the decline in circulating GH and hypothalamic GHRH, pituitary GH mRNA levels of HI STZ-treated rats were 58% of controls. However, pituitary receptor mRNA levels for GHRH and ghrelin increased and those for somatostatin (sst2, sst3 and sst5) decreased following HI STZ treatment. The impact of LO STZ treatment on the GH axis differed from that observed following HI STZ treatment, despite comparable changes in circulating glucose and insulin. Specifically, LO STZ treatment did suppress circulating IGF-I levels to the same extent as HI STZ treatment; however, the impact on hypothalamic NPY mRNA levels was less dramatic (158% of vehicle-treated controls) where NPY immunoreactivity was increased only within the paraventricular nucleus. Also, there were no changes in circulating GH, hypothalamic GHRH or pituitary receptor expression following LO STZ treatment, with the exception that pituitary sst3 mRNA levels were suppressed compared with vehicle-treated controls. Taken together these results clearly demonstrate that insulinopenia, hyperglycemia and reduced circulating IGF-I levels are not the primary mediators of hypothalamic and pituitary changes in the GH axis of rats following HI STZ treatment. Changes in the GH axis of HI STZ-treated rats were accompanied by weight loss, and these changes are strikingly similar to those observed in the fasted rat, which suggests that factors associated with the catabolic state are critical in modifying the GH axis following STZ-induced diabetes.

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Isabelle Vögeli, Hans H Jung, Bernhard Dick, Sandra K Erickson, Robert Escher, John W Funder, Felix J Frey and Geneviève Escher

The intracellular availability of glucocorticoids is regulated by the enzymes 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11B1) and 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 (HSD11B2). The activity of HSD11B1 is measured in the urine based on the (tetrahydrocortisol+5α-tetrahydrocortisol)/tetrahydrocortisone ((THF+5α-THF)/THE) ratio in humans and the (tetrahydrocorticosterone+5α-tetrahydrocorticosterone)/tetrahydrodehydrocorticosterone ((THB+5α-THB)/THA) ratio in mice. The cortisol/cortisone (F/E) ratio in humans and the corticosterone/11-dehydrocorticosterone (B/A) ratio in mice are markers of the activity of HSD11B2. In vitro agonist treatment of liver X receptor (LXR) down-regulates the activity of HSD11B1. Sterol 27-hydroxylase (CYP27A1) catalyses the first step in the alternative pathway of bile acid synthesis by hydroxylating cholesterol to 27-hydroxycholesterol (27-OHC). Since 27-OHC is a natural ligand for LXR, we hypothesised that CYP27A1 deficiency may up-regulate the activity of HSD11B1. In a patient with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis carrying a loss-of-function mutation in CYP27A1, the plasma concentrations of 27-OHC were dramatically reduced (3.8 vs 90–140 ng/ml in healthy controls) and the urinary ratios of (THF+5α-THF)/THE and F/E were increased, demonstrating enhanced HSD11B1 and diminished HSD11B2 activities. Similarly, in Cyp27a1 knockout (KO) mice, the plasma concentrations of 27-OHC were undetectable (<1 vs 25–120 ng/ml in Cyp27a1 WT mice). The urinary ratio of (THB+5α-THB)/THA was fourfold and that of B/A was twofold higher in KO mice than in their WT littermates. The (THB+5α-THB)/THA ratio was also significantly increased in the plasma, liver and kidney of KO mice. In the liver of these mice, the increase in the concentrations of active glucocorticoids was due to increased liver weight as a consequence of Cyp27a1 deficiency. In vitro, 27-OHC acts as an inhibitor of the activity of HSD11B1. Our studies suggest that the expression of CYP27A1 modulates the concentrations of active glucocorticoids in both humans and mice and in vitro.