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Michelle M Chen, Clarence Hale, Shanaka Stanislaus, Jing Xu and Murielle M Véniant

Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a potent regulator of glucose and lipid homeostasis in vivo; its most closely related subfamily member, FGF19, is known to be a critical negative regulator of bile acid synthesis. To delineate whether FGF21 also plays a functional role in bile acid metabolism, we evaluated the effects of short- and long-term exposure to native FGF21 and long-acting FGF21 analogs on hepatic signal transduction, gene expression and enterohepatic bile acid levels in primary hepatocytes and in rodent and monkey models. FGF21 acutely induced ERK phosphorylation and inhibited Cyp7A1 mRNA expression in primary hepatocytes and in different rodent models, although less potently than recombinant human FGF19. Long-term administration of FGF21 in mice fed a standard chow diet resulted in a 50–60% decrease in bile acid levels in the liver and small intestines and consequently a 60% reduction of bile acid pool size. In parallel, colonic and fecal bile acid was decreased, whereas fecal cholesterol and fatty acid excretions were elevated. The long-acting FGF21 analog showed superiority to recombinant human FGF21 and FGF19 in decreasing bile acid levels with long duration of effect action in mice. Long-term administration of the long-acting FGF21 analogs in obese cynomolgus monkeys suppressed plasma total bile acid and 7α-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one levels, a biomarker for bile acid synthesis. Collectively, these data reveal a previously unidentified role of FGF21 in bile acid metabolism as a negative regulator of bile acid synthesis.

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Bee K Tan, Jing Chen, Raghu Adya, Manjunath Ramanjaneya, Vanlata Patel and Harpal S Randeva

Adipolin is a novel adipokine with anti-inflammatory and glucose-lowering properties. Lower levels of adipolin are found in obese and diabetic mice. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a pro-inflammatory state associated with obesity and diabetes. To date, there are no human studies on adipolin. Therefore, we measured serum (ELISA) and adipose tissue adipolin mRNA expression (RT-PCR) and protein concentrations (western blotting) in PCOS and control subjects. We also investigated the ex vivo effect of glucose and metformin on adipolin protein production in human subcutaneous adipose tissue explants. We report novel data that serum and subcutaneous adipose tissue adipolin mRNA expression and protein concentrations were significantly lower in women with PCOS compared with control subjects. Furthermore, Spearman's rank analysis showed that serum adipolin concentrations were significantly negatively correlated with BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, and glucose (P<0.05). However, when subjected to multiple regression analysis, none of these variables were predictive of serum adipolin concentrations (P>0.05). Also, subcutaneous adipose tissue adipolin mRNA expression and protein concentrations were only significantly negatively correlated with glucose (P<0.05). No significant correlations were found with omental adipose tissue adipolin mRNA expression and protein concentrations (P>0.05). Moreover, glucose profoundly reduced and metformin significantly increased adipolin protein production in human adipose tissue explants respectively. Importantly, metformin's effects appear to be via the AMP-activated protein kinase signaling pathway.

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Te Du, Liu Yang, Xu Xu, Xiaofan Shi, Xin Xu, Jian Lu, Jianlu Lv, Xi Huang, Jing Chen, Heyao Wang, Jiming Ye, Lihong Hu and Xu Shen

Vincamine, a monoterpenoid indole alkaloid extracted from the Madagascar periwinkle, is clinically used for the treatment of cardio-cerebrovascular diseases, while also treated as a dietary supplement with nootropic function. Given the neuronal protection of vincamine and the potency of β-cell amelioration in treating type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), we investigated the potential of vincamine in protecting β-cells and ameliorating glucose homeostasis in vitro and in vivo. Interestingly, we found that vincamine could protect INS-832/13 cells function by regulating G-protein-coupled receptor 40 (GPR40)/cAMP/Ca2+/IRS2/PI3K/Akt signaling pathway, while increasing glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) by modulating GPR40/cAMP/Ca2+/CaMKII pathway, which reveals a novel mechanism underlying GPR40-mediated cell protection and GSIS in INS-832/13 cells. Moreover, administration of vincamine effectively ameliorated glucose homeostasis in either HFD/STZ or db/db type 2 diabetic mice. To our knowledge, our current work might be the first report on vincamine targeting GPR40 and its potential in the treatment of T2DM.

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Dan Li, Yan Ji, Chunlan Zhao, Yapeng Yao, Anlan Yang, Honghong Jin, Yang Chen, Mingjun San, Jing Zhang, Mingjiao Zhang, Luqing Zhang, Xuechao Feng and Yaowu Zheng

Oxytocin receptor (OXTR) is a G-protein-coupled receptor and known for regulation of maternal and social behaviors. Null mutation (Oxtr−/−) leads to defects in lactation due to impaired milk ejection and maternal nurturing. Overexpression of OXTR has never been studied. To define the functions of OXTR overexpression, a transgenic mouse model that overexpresses mouse Oxtr under β-actin promoter was developed (++ Oxtr). ++ Oxtr mice displayed advanced development and maturation of mammary gland, including ductal distention, enhanced secretory differentiation and early milk production at non-pregnancy and early pregnancy. However, ++ Oxtr dams failed to produce adequate amount of milk and led to lethality of newborns due to early involution of mammary gland in lactation. Mammary gland transplantation results indicated the abnormal mammary gland development was mainly from hormonal changes in ++ Oxtr mice but not from OXTR overexpression in mammary gland. Elevated OXTR expression increased prolactin-induced phosphorylation and nuclear localization of STAT5 (p-STAT5), and decreased progesterone level, leading to early milk production in non-pregnant and early pregnant females, whereas low prolactin and STAT5 activation in lactation led to insufficient milk production. Progesterone treatment reversed the OXTR-induced accelerated mammary gland development by inhibition of prolactin/p-STAT5 pathway. Prolactin administration rescued lactation deficiency through STAT5 activation. Progesterone plays a negative role in OXTR-regulated prolactin/p-STAT5 pathways. The study provides evidence that OXTR overexpression induces abnormal mammary gland development through progesterone and prolactin-regulated p-STAT5 pathway.

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Junhong Chen, Jing Sun, Michelle E Doscas, Jin Ye, Ashley J Williamson, Yanchun Li, Yi Li, Richard A Prinz and Xiulong Xu

p70 S6 kinase (S6K1) is a serine/threonine kinase that phosphorylates the insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) at serine 1101 and desensitizes insulin receptor signaling. S6K1 hyperactivation due to overnutrition leads to hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes. Our recent study showed that A77 1726, the active metabolite of the anti-rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drug leflunomide, is an inhibitor of S6K1. Whether leflunomide can control hyperglycemia and sensitize the insulin receptor has not been tested. Here we report that A77 1726 increased AKTS473/T308 and S6K1T389 phosphorylation but decreased S6S235/236 and IRS-1S1101 phosphorylation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, C2C12 and L6 myotubes. A77 1726 increased insulin receptor tyrosine phosphorylation and binding of the p85 subunit of the PI-3 kinase to IRS-1. A77 1726 enhanced insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in L6 myotubes and 3T3-L1 adipocytes, and enhanced insulin-stimulated glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) translocation to the plasma membrane of L6 cells. Finally, we investigated the anti-hyperglycemic effect of leflunomide on ob/ob and high-fat diet (HFD)-induced diabetes mouse models. Leflunomide treatment normalized blood glucose levels and overcame insulin resistance in glucose and insulin tolerance tests in ob/ob and HFD-fed mice but had no effect on mice fed a normal chow diet (NCD). Leflunomide treatment increased AKTS473/T308 phosphorylation in the fat and muscle of ob/ob mice but not in normal mice. Our results suggest that leflunomide sensitizes the insulin receptor by inhibiting S6K1 activity in vitro, and that leflunomide could be potentially useful for treating patients with both RA and diabetes.

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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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Manjunath Ramanjaneya, Alex C Conner, Jing Chen, Prashanth Kumar, James E P Brown, Olaf Jöhren, Hendrik Lehnert, Peter R Stanfield and Harpal S Randeva

Orexins A and B (ORA and ORB) are neuropeptide hormones found throughout the central nervous system and periphery. They are required for a host of physiological processes including mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) regulation, steroidogenesis, appetite control and energy regulation. While some signalling mechanisms have been proposed for individual recombinant orexin receptors in generic mammalian cell types, it is clear that the peripheral effects of orexin are spatially and temporally complex. This study dissects the different G-protein signalling and MAPK pathways activated in a pluripotent human adrenal H295R cell line capable of all the physiological steps involved in steroidogenesis. Both extracellular receptor kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) and p38 were phosphorylated rapidly with a subsequent decline, in a time- and dose-dependent manner, in response to both ORA and ORB. Conversely, there was little or no direct activation of the ERK5 or JNK pathway. Analysis using signalling and MAPK inhibitors as well as receptor-specific antagonists determined the precise mediators of the orexin response in these cells. Both ERK1/2 and p38 activation were predominantly Gq- and to a lesser extent Gs-mediated; p38 activation even had a small Gi-component. Effects were broadly comparable for both orexin sub-types ORA and ORB and although most of the effects were transmitted through the orexin receptor-1 subtype, we did observe a role for orexin receptor-2-mediated activation of both ERK1/2 and p38. Cortisol secretion also differed in response to ORA and ORB. These data suggest multiple roles for orexin-mediated MAPK activation in an adrenal cell-line, this complexity may help to explain the diverse biological actions of orexins with wide-ranging consequences for our understanding of the mechanisms initiated by these steroidogenic molecules.

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Ya Pei, Honggui Li, Yuli Cai, Jing Zhou, Xianjun Luo, Linqiang Ma, Kelly McDaniel, Tianshu Zeng, Yanming Chen, Xiaoxian Qian, Yuqing Huo, Shannon Glaser, Fanyin Meng, Gianfranco Alpini, Lulu Chen and Chaodong Wu

Adenosine 2A receptor (A2AR) exerts anti-inflammatory effects. However, the role of A2AR in obesity-associated adipose tissue inflammation remains to be elucidated. The present study examined the expression of A2AR in adipose tissue of mice with diet-induced obesity and determined the effect of A2AR disruption on the status of obesity-associated adipose tissue inflammation. WT C57BL/6J mice and A2AR-disrupted mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) for 12 weeks to induce obesity and adipose tissue inflammation. In vitro, bone marrow-derived macrophages from A2AR-disrupted mice and WT control mice were treated with palmitate and examined for macrophage proinflammatory activation. Compared with that of low-fat diet (LFD)-fed WT mice, A2AR expression in adipose tissue of HFD-fed WT mice was increased significantly and was present predominantly in adipose tissue macrophages. The increase in adipose tissue A2AR expression in HFD-fed mice was accompanied with increased phosphorylation states of c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 p46 and nuclear factor kappa B p65 and mRNA levels of interleukin (Il)-1beta, Il6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha. In A2AR-disrupted mice, HFD feeding induced significant increases in adipose tissue inflammation, indicated by enhanced proinflammatory signaling and increased proinflammatory cytokine expression, and adipose tissue insulin resistance, indicated by a decrease in insulin-stimulated Akt phosphorylation relative to those in WT mice. Lastly, A2AR disruption enhanced palmitate-induced macrophage proinflammatory activation. Taken together, these results suggest that A2AR plays a protective role in obesity-associated adipose tissue inflammation, which is attributable to, in large part, A2AR suppression of macrophage proinflammatory activation.

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Li Zhao, Chunfang Zhu, Meng Lu, Chi Chen, Xiaomin Nie, Buatikamu Abudukerimu, Kun Zhang, Zhiyuan Ning, Yi Chen, Jing Cheng, Fangzhen Xia, Ningjian Wang, Michael D Jensen and Yingli Lu

Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RAs) are an ideal therapy for type 2 diabetes and, as of recently, for obesity. In contrast to visceral fat, subcutaneous fat appears to be protective against metabolic diseases. Here, we aimed to explore whether liraglutide, a GLP-1RA, could redistribute body fat via regulating lipid metabolism in different fat depots. After being fed a high-fat diet for 8 weeks, 50 male Wistar and Goto-Kakizaki rats were randomly divided into a normal control group, a diabetic control group, low- and high-dose liraglutide-treated groups and a diet-control group. Different doses of liraglutide (400 μg/kg/day or 1200 μg/kg/day) or an equal volume of normal saline were administered to the rats subcutaneously once a day for 12 weeks. Body composition and body fat deposition were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and MRI. Isotope tracers were infused to explore lipid metabolism in different fat depots. Quantitative real-time PCR and Western blot analyses were conducted to evaluate the expression of adipose-related genes. The results showed that liraglutide decreased visceral fat and relatively increased subcutaneous fat. Lipogenesis was reduced in visceral white adipose tissue (WAT) but was elevated in subcutaneous WAT. Lipolysis was also attenuated, and fatty acid oxidation was enhanced. The mRNA expression levels of adipose-related genes in different tissues displayed similar trends after liraglutide treatment. In addition, the expression of browning-related genes was upregulated in subcutaneous WAT. Taken together, the results suggested that liraglutide potentially redistributes body fat and promotes browning remodeling in subcutaneous WAT to improve metabolic disorders.