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Fengyue Wang, Jing Yang, Junfeng Sun, Yanli Dong, Hong Zhao, Hui Shi and Lu Fu

Testosterone can affect cardiovascular disease, but its effects on mitochondrial dynamics in the post-infarct myocardium remain unclear. To observe the effects of testosterone replacement, a rat model of castration-myocardial infarction (MI) was established by ligating the left anterior descending coronary artery 2 weeks after castration with or without testosterone treatment. Expression of mitochondrial fission and fusion proteins was detected by western blot and immunofluorescence 14 days after MI. Cardiac function, myocardial inflammatory infiltration and fibrosis, cardiomyocyte apoptosis, mitochondrial microstructure, and ATP levels were also assessed. Compared with MI rats, castrated rats showed aggravated mitochondrial and myocardial insults, including mitochondrial swelling and disordered arrangement; loss of cristae, reduced mitochondrial length; decreased ATP levels; cardiomyocyte apoptosis; and impaired cardiac function. Results of western blotting analyses indicated that castration downregulated peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC1A) and mitofusin 2, but upregulated dynamin-related protein 1. The results were also supported by results obtained using immunofluorescence. However, these detrimental effects were reversed by testosterone supplementation, which also elevated the upstream AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activation of PGC1A. Thus, testosterone can protect mitochondria in the post-infarct myocardium, partly via the AMPK–PGC1A pathway, thereby decreasing mitochondrial dysfunction and cardiomyocyte apoptosis. The effects of testosterone were confirmed by the results of ELISA analyses.

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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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Jing Li, Pan-Pan Zhao, Ting Hao, Dan Wang, Yu Wang, Yang-Zi Zhu, Yu-Qing Wu and Cheng-Hua Zhou

Urotensin II (U-II), a cyclic peptide originally isolated from the caudal neurosecretory system of fishes, can produce proinflammatory effects through its specific G protein-coupled receptor, GPR14. Neuropathic pain, a devastating disease, is related to excessive inflammation in the spinal dorsal horn. However, the relationship between U-II and neuropathic pain has not been reported. This study was designed to investigate the effect of U-II antagonist on neuropathic pain and to understand the associated mechanisms. We reported that U-II and its receptor GPR14 were persistently upregulated and activated in the dorsal horn of L4–6 spinal cord segments after chronic constriction injury (CCI) in rats. Intrathecal injection of SB657510, a specific antagonist against U-II, reversed CCI-induced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia. Furthermore, we found that SB657510 reduced the expression of phosphorylated c-Jun N-terminal kinase (p-JNK) and nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) p65 as well as subsequent secretion of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). It was also showed that both the JNK inhibitor SP600125 and the NF-κB inhibitor PDTC significantly attenuated thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia in CCI rats. Our present research showed that U-II receptor antagonist alleviated neuropathic pain possibly through the suppression of the JNK/NF-κB pathway in CCI rats, which will contribute to the better understanding of function of U-II and pathogenesis of neuropathic pain.

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Yuan Ni, Dan Xu, Feng Lv, Yang Wan, Guanlan Fan, Wen Zou, Yunxi Chen, Linguo Pei, Jing Yang and Hui Wang

Prenatal ethanol exposure (PEE) adversely affects the offspring reproductive system. We aimed to confirm the susceptibility to premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) in female PEE offspring and elucidate its intrauterine programming mechanism. The pregnant Wistar female rats were intragastrically administered with 4 g/kg × day of ethanol from gestational day (GD) 9 to 20. Offspring reproductive parameters were detected on GD20, postnatal week (PW) 6 and PW12. The PEE foetuses showed a decreased number of oocytes, increased ovarian cell apoptosis and upregulated expression levels of ovarian insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) signalling pathway and steroidogenic enzymes. The proportion of atretic follicles in adult rats was increased, while the number of anti-Müllerian hormone-positive antral follicles was decreased. The serum oestradiol (E2) levels were decreased, but the follicle stimulation hormone levels were elevated. The ovarian Igf1 signalling pathway was transformed from activation during puberty to relative inhibition in adulthood, and the expression levels of ovarian steroidogenic enzymes were inhibited in adulthood. Furthermore, we treated the human granulosa cell line KGN with different ethanol concentrations (15, 30, 60, 120 mM) and found that the expression of IGF1 signalling pathway components, 3β-HSD and P450arom, as well as the production of E2, was increased. After IGF1 siRNA transfection, P450arom expression and E2 production were downregulated. These results suggest that PEE induces POI susceptibility in adult females, which may be caused by over-activation of the foetal ovarian Igf1 signalling pathway and steroidogenesis under PEE, resulting in accelerated early development of folliculogenesis and depletion of primordial follicles.

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Zhe-Zhen Liao, Xiao-Yan Qi, Yadi Wang, Jiao-Yang Li, Qian-Qian Gu, Can Hu, Yin Hu, Heng Sun, Li Ran, Jing Yang, Jiang Hua Liu and Xinhua Xiao

Remodeling of energy-storing white fat into energy-consuming beige fat has led to a promising new approach to alleviate adiposity. Several studies have shown adipokines can induce white adipose tissues (WAT) beiging through autocrine or paracrine actions. Betatrophin, a novel adipokine, has been linked to energy expenditure and lipolysis but not clearly clarified. Here, we using high-fat diet induced obesity to determine how betatrophin modulate beiging and adiposity. We found that betatrophin-knockdown mice displayed less white fat mass and decreased plasma TG and NEFA levels. Consistently, inhibition of betatrophin leads to the phenotype change of adipocytes characterized by increased mitochondria contents, beige adipocytes and mitochondrial biogenesis-specific markers both in vivo and in vitro. Notably, blocking AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling pathway is able to abolish enhanced beige-like characteristics in betatrophin-knockdown adipocytes. Collectively, down-regulation of betatrophin induces beiging in white adipocytes through activation of AMPK signaling pathway. These processes suggest betatrophin as a latent therapeutic target for obesity.

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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.