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Free access

Alistair I Freeman, Helen L Munn, Val Lyons, Alexander Dammermann, Jonathan R Seckl and Karen E Chapman

The level of expression of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is the principal determinant of glucocorticoid sensitivity in most cells. GR levels are permanently ‘set’ in a tissue-specific manner in response to the perinatal environment, an effect we have previously shown to relate to differential expression of tissue-enriched alternative promoters/exons 1 of the GR gene. In adult animals, GR levels are dynamically regulated around the ‘set point’ by glucocorticoids themselves, with glucocorticoids down-regulating GR mRNA in most cells and tissues. Here we have examined whether autoregulation of GR mRNA by glucocorticoids involves differential promoter regulation. We show that, in contrast to tissue-specific programming of GR mRNA levels, autoregulation of GR mRNA in vivo does not involve differential regulation of variant exon 1-containing GR mRNAs in that the major variants are down-regulated to a similar extent by glucocorticoid treatment. Consistent with this, transfections of reporter constructs showed that the majority of GR promoters, which are contained within a 4.4 kb region upstream of exon 2, are similarly regulated by glucocorticoids, with two regions of the promoter redundantly required for glucocorticoid regulation. Thus transcriptional autoregulation can occur in adult tissues around the set point established by promoter selection in early life.

Open access

David O'Regan, Christopher J Kenyon, Jonathan R Seckl and Megan C Holmes

Low birth weight in humans is predictive of hypertension in adult life. Although the mechanisms underlying this link remain unknown, fetal overexposure to glucocorticoids has been implicated. We previously showed that prenatal dexamethasone (DEX) exposure in the rat lowers birth weight and programmes adult hypertension. The current study aimed to further investigate the nature of this hypertension and to elucidate its origins. Unlike previous studies, we assessed offspring blood pressure (BP) with radiotelemetry, which is unaffected by stress artefacts of measurement. We show that prenatal DEX during the last week of pregnancy results in offspring of low birth weight (14% reduction) that have lower basal BP in adulthood (∼4–8 mmHg lower); with the commonly expected hypertensive phenotype only being noted when these offspring are subjected to even mild disturbance or a more severe stressor (up to 30 mmHg higher than controls). Moreover, DEX-treated offspring sustain their stress-induced hypertension for longer. Promotion of systemic catecholamine release (amphetamine) induced a significantly greater rise of BP in the DEX animals (77% increase) over that observed in the vehicle controls. Additionally, we demonstrate that the isolated mesenteric vasculature of DEX-treated offspring display greater sensitivity to noradrenaline and other vasoconstrictors. We therefore conclude that altered sympathetic responses mediate the stress-induced hypertension associated with prenatal DEX programming.

Free access

Paula J Brunton, Katie M Sullivan, David Kerrigan, John A Russell, Jonathan R Seckl and Amanda J Drake

Glucocorticoid overexposure during pregnancy programmes offspring physiology and predisposes to later disease. However, any impact of ethologically relevant maternal stress is less clear, yet of physiological importance. Here, we investigated in rats the short- and long-term effects in adult offspring of repeated social stress (exposure to an aggressive lactating female) during late pregnancy on glucose regulation following stress, glucose–insulin homoeostasis and peripheral expression of genes important in regulating glucose and lipid metabolism and glucocorticoid action. Prenatal stress (PNS) was associated with reduced birth weight in female, but not male, offspring. The increase in blood glucose with restraint was exaggerated in adult PNS males compared with controls, but not in females. Oral glucose tolerance testing showed no effects on plasma glucose or insulin concentrations in either sex at 3 months; however, at 6 months, PNS females were hyperinsulinaemic following an oral glucose load. In PNS males, plasma triglyceride concentrations were increased, with reduced hepatic mRNA expression of 5α-reductase and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (Ppar α (Ppara)) and a strong trend towards reduced peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1α (Pgc1 α (Ppargc1a)) and Ppar γ (Pparg) expression, whereas only Pgc1 α mRNA was affected in PNS females. Conversely, in subcutaneous fat, PNS reduced mRNA expression of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11 β hsd1), phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (Pepck (Pck1)), adipose triglyceride lipase (Atgl) and diglyceride acyltransferase 2 (Dgat2) in females, but only Pepck mRNA expression was reduced in PNS males. Thus, prenatal social stress differentially programmes glucose homoeostasis and peripheral metabolism in male and female offspring. These long-term alterations in physiology may increase susceptibility to metabolic disease.

Free access

Zoi Michailidou, Anthony P Coll, Christopher J Kenyon, Nicholas M Morton, Stephen O’Rahilly, Jonathan R Seckl and Karen E Chapman

Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) deficiency causes severe obesity through hyperphagia of hypothalamic origin. However, low glucocorticoid levels caused by adrenal insufficiency mitigate against insulin resistance, hyperphagia and fat accretion in Pomc −/−mice. Upon exogenous glucocorticoid replacement, corticosterone-supplemented (CORT) Pomc −/− mice show exaggerated responses, including excessive fat accumulation, hyperleptinaemia and insulin resistance. To investigate the peripheral mechanisms underlying this glucocorticoid hypersensitivity, we examined the expression levels of key determinants and targets of glucocorticoid action in adipose tissue and liver. Despite lower basal expression of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1), which generates active glucocorticoids within cells, CORT-mediated induction of 11β-HSD1 mRNA levels was more pronounced in adipose tissues of Pomc −/−mice. Similarly, CORT treatment increased lipoprotein lipase mRNA levels in all fat depots in Pomc −/− mice, consistent with exaggerated fat accumulation. Glucocorticoid receptor (GR) mRNA levels were selectively elevated in liver and retroperitoneal fat of Pomc −/− mice but were corrected by CORT in the latter depot. In liver, CORT increased phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase mRNA levels specifically in Pomc −/− mice, consistent with their insulin-resistant phenotype. Furthermore, CORT induced hypertension in Pomc −/−mice, independently of adipose or liver renin–angiotensin system activation. These data suggest that CORT-inducible 11β-HSD1 expression in fat contributes to the adverse cardiometabolic effects of CORT in POMC deficiency, whereas higher GR levels may be more important in liver.

Open access

Jethro S Johnson, Monica N Opiyo, Marian Thomson, Karim Gharbi, Jonathan R Seckl, Andreas Heger and Karen E Chapman

The enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11β-HSD) interconverts active glucocorticoids and their intrinsically inert 11-keto forms. The type 1 isozyme, 11β-HSD1, predominantly reactivates glucocorticoids in vivo and can also metabolise bile acids. 11β-HSD1-deficient mice show altered inflammatory responses and are protected against the adverse metabolic effects of a high-fat diet. However, the impact of 11β-HSD1 on the composition of the gut microbiome has not previously been investigated. We used high-throughput 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing to characterise the gut microbiome of 11β-HSD1-deficient and C57Bl/6 control mice, fed either a standard chow diet or a cholesterol- and fat-enriched ‘Western’ diet. 11β-HSD1 deficiency significantly altered the composition of the gut microbiome, and did so in a diet-specific manner. On a Western diet, 11β-HSD1 deficiency increased the relative abundance of the family Bacteroidaceae, and on a chow diet, it altered relative abundance of the family Prevotellaceae. Our results demonstrate that (i) genetic effects on host–microbiome interactions can depend upon diet and (ii) that alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome may contribute to the aspects of the metabolic and/or inflammatory phenotype observed with 11β-HSD1 deficiency.

Open access

Zhenguang Zhang, Agnes E Coutinho, Tak Yung Man, Tiina M J Kipari, Patrick W F Hadoke, Donald M Salter, Jonathan R Seckl and Karen E Chapman

11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1 (11β-HSD1) predominantly converts inert glucocorticoids into active forms, thereby contributing to intracellular glucocorticoid levels. 11β-HSD1 is dynamically regulated during inflammation, including in macrophages where it regulates phagocytic capacity. The resolution of inflammation in some disease models including inflammatory arthritis is impaired by 11β-HSD1 deficiency or inhibition. However, 11β-HSD1 deficiency/inhibition also promotes angiogenesis, which is beneficial in mouse models of surgical wound healing, myocardial infarction or obesity. The cell types responsible for the anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic roles of 11β-HSD1 have not been characterised. Here, we generated Hsd11b1 MKO mice with LysM-Cre mediated deletion of Hsd11b1 to investigate whether 11β-HSD1 deficiency in myeloid phagocytes is pro-angiogenic and/or affects the resolution of inflammation. Resolution of inflammatory K/BxN-induced arthritis was impaired in Hsd11b1 MKO mice to a similar extent as in mice globally deficient in 11β-HSD1. This was associated with >2-fold elevation in levels of the endothelial marker Cdh5 mRNA, suggesting increased angiogenesis in joints of Hsd11b1 MKO mice following arthritis. A pro-angiogenic phenotype was confirmed by measuring angiogenesis in subcutaneously implanted polyurethane sponges, in which Hsd11b1 MKO mice showed 20% greater vessel density than their littermate controls, associated with higher expression of Cdh5. Thus, 11β-HSD1 deficiency in myeloid phagocytes promotes angiogenesis. Targeting 11β-HSD1 in macrophages may be beneficial in tissue repair.

Open access

Ping Ye, Christopher J Kenyon, Scott M MacKenzie, Katherine Nichol, Jonathan R Seckl, Robert Fraser, John M C Connell and Eleanor Davies

Using a highly sensitive quantitative RT-PCR method for the measurement of CYP11B1 (11β-hydroxylase) and CYP11B2 (aldosterone synthase) mRNAs, we previously demonstrated that CYP11B2 expression in the central nervous system (CNS) is subject to regulation by dietary sodium. We have now quantified the expression of these genes in the CNS of male Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats in response to systemic ACTH infusion, dexamethasone infusion, and to adrenalectomy. CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 mRNA levels were measured in total RNA isolated from the adrenal gland and discrete brain regions using real-time quantitative RT-PCR. ACTH infusion (40 ng/day for 7 days, N=8) significantly increased CYP11B1 mRNA in the adrenal gland, hypothalamus, and cerebral cortex compared with animals infused with vehicle only. ACTH infusion decreased adrenal CYP11B2 expression but increased expression in all of the CNS regions except the cortex. Dexamethasone (10 μg/day for 7 days, N=8) reduced adrenal CYP11B1 mRNA compared with control animals but had no significant effect on either gene's expression in the CNS. Adrenalectomy (N=6 per group) significantly increased CYP11B1 expression in the hippocampus and hypothalamus and raised CYP11B2 expression in the cerebellum relative to sham-operated animals. This study confirms the transcription of CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 throughout the CNS and demonstrates that gene transcription is subject to differential regulation by ACTH and circulating corticosteroid levels.