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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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Fu-Qing Yu, Chun-Sheng Han, Wei Yang, Xuan Jin, Zhao-Yuan Hu and Yi-Xun Liu

In the present study, we started out to test whether the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)-activated p38 MAPK signaling cascade was involved in the regulation of steroidogenesis in granulosa cells (GCs). GCs were prepared from the ovaries of DES-treated immature rats and cultured in serum-free medium. Treatment of GCs with FSH (50 ng/ml) induced the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK rapidly with the phosphorylation being observed within 5 min and reaching the highest level at 30 min. Such activation was protein kinase A-dependent as indicated by the results using specific inhibitors. FSH stimulated the production of progesterone and estradiol as well as the expression of the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) in a time-dependent manner, with a maximum level being observed in the production of progesterone and StAR at 48 h. Moreover, the potent p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580 (20 μM) augmented FSH-induced progesterone and StAR production, while reduced FSH-induced estradiol production at the same time (P<0.01). RT-PCR data showed that inclusion of SB203580 in the media enhanced FSH-stimulated StAR mRNA production, while decreased the FSH-stimulated P450arom mRNA expression (P<0.05). Immunocytochemical studies showed that FSH treatment together with the inhibition of p38 MAPK activity resulted in a higher expression of StAR in mitochondria than FSH treatment alone. FSH also significantly up-regulated the protein level of LRH-1, a member of the orphan receptor family that activates the expression of P450arom in ovaries and testes. p38 MAPK inactivation down-regulated the basal and FSH-induced LRH-1 expression significantly. The intra-cellular level of DAX-1, another orphan receptor that inhibits StAR expression, also decreased upon p38 MAPK being inactivated. For the first time, the present study suggests that FSH-activated p38 MAPK signal pathway regulates progesterone and estrogen production in GCs differentially, and that the transcription factors LRH-1 and DAX-1 might play important roles in the process.

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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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Hai-Fan Yu, Zhan-Peng Yue, Kai Wang, Zhan-Qing Yang, Hong-Liang Zhang, Shuang Geng and Bin Guo

Although Gja1 has been proved to play an important role in uterine decidualization, its regulatory mechanism remains largely unknown. Here, we showed that Gja1 was highly expressed in the decidual cells and promoted the proliferation of uterine stromal cells and expression of Prl8a2 and Prl3c1, which were two well-known differentiation markers for decidualization. Further analysis revealed that Gja1 might act downstream of Acvr1 and cAMP to regulate the differentiation of uterine stromal cells. Administration of cAMP analog 8-Br-cAMP to Acvr1 siRNA-transfected stromal cells resulted in an obvious increase of Gja1 expression, whereas PKA inhibitor H89 impeded the induction of Gja1 elicited by Acvr1 overexpression, indicating that cAMP–PKA signal mediates the regulation of Acvr1 on Gja1 expression. In uterine stromal cells, knockdown of Gja1 blocked the cAMP induction of Hand2. Moreover, siRNA-mediated downregulation of Hand2 impaired the stimulatory effects of Gja1 overexpression on the expression of Prl8a2 and Prl3c1, whereas constitutive expression of Hand2 reversed the inhibitory effects of Gja1 siRNA on stromal differentiation. Meanwhile, Gja1 might play a vital role in the crosstalk between Acvr1 and Hand2. Collectively, Gja1 may act downstream of cAMP–PKA signal to mediate the effects of Acvr1 on the differentiation of uterine stromal cells through targeting Hand2.

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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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Yu Wu, Tingting Wu, Jun Wu, Lei Zhao, Qing Li, Zac Varghese, John F Moorhead, Stephen H Powis, Yaxi Chen and Xiong Z Ruan

Inflammatory stress is closely related to metabolic disease and insulin resistance. The precise cellular mechanism linking obesity and diabetes is largely unknown, but about 14–20% of obese individuals develop diabetes. In this study, we investigated whether chronic inflammation exacerbated glucose metabolism disorder by impairing β cell function in high-fat diet (HFD)-fed C57BL/6J mice. We used s.c. casein injection to induce chronic inflammation in HFD-fed C57BL/6J mice; 14 weeks on a HFD resulted in weight gain, hyperlipidemia, and low insulin sensitivity in these mice which nevertheless had normal blood glucose and serum inflammatory cytokines levels. Casein injection in the background of HFD elevated serum tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and serum amyloid A levels and increased TNFα and MCP1 expression in the adipose tissue, liver, and muscle of HFD-fed mice. Chronic inflammation induced by casein injection further decreased insulin sensitivity and insulin signaling, resulting in insulin deficiency and hyperglycemia in these mice. Islet mass and insulin content were markedly increased in HFD mice. However, in contrast with HFD-fed alone, chronic inflammation in HFD-fed mice decreased both islet mass and insulin content, reduced the genetic expression of insulin synthesis and secretion, and increased β cell apoptosis. We conclude that chronic inflammation exacerbated glucose metabolism disorders by impairing β cell function in HFD-fed C57BL/6J mice, suggesting that this mechanism may operate in obese individuals with chronic inflammation, making them prone to hyperglycemia.

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Dan Wang, Chu-Dan Liu, Meng-Li Tian, Cheng-Quan Tan, Gang Shu, Qing-Yan Jiang, Lin Zhang and Yu-Long Yin

Dietary fibers and their microbial fermentation products short-chain fatty acids promote metabolic benefits, but the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. Recent studies indicate that intestinal lipid handling is under regulatory control and has broad influence on whole body energy homeostasis. Here we reported that dietary inulin and propionate significantly decreased whole body fat mass without affecting food intake in mice fed with chow diet. Meanwhile, triglyceride (TG) content was decreased and lipolysis gene expression, such as adipose triglyceride lipase (A tgl), hormone-sensitive lipase (H sl) and lysosomal acid lipase (L al) was elevated in the jejunum and ileum of inulin- and propionate-treated mice. In vitro studies on Caco-2 cells showed propionate directly induced enterocyte Atgl, Hsl and Lal gene expression and decreased TG content, via activation of phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (p-AMPK) and lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1). Moreover, inulin and propionate could increase intestinal lipolysis under high-fat diet (HFD)-fed condition which contributed to the prevention of HFD-induced obesity. Our study suggests that dietary fiber inulin and its microbial fermentation product propionate can regulate metabolic homeostasis through regulating intestinal lipid handling, which may provide a novel therapeutic target for both prevention and treatment of obesity.

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Anna E Bollag, Tianyang Guo, Ke-Hong Ding, Vivek Choudhary, Xunsheng Chen, Qing Zhong, Jianrui Xu, Kanglun Yu, Mohamed E Awad, Mohammed Elsalanty, Maribeth H Johnson, Meghan E McGee-Lawrence, Wendy B Bollag and Carlos M Isales

Osteoporosis, low bone mass that increases fracture susceptibility, affects approximately 75 million individuals in the United States, Europe and Japan, with the number of osteoporotic fractures expected to increase by more than three-fold over the next 50 years. Bone mass declines with age, although the mechanisms for this decrease are unclear. Aging enhances production of reactive oxygen species, which can affect bone formation and breakdown. The multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera contains dimethylfumarate, which is rapidly metabolized to monomethylfumarate (MMF); MMF is thought to function through nuclear factor erythroid-derived-2-like-2 (NRF2), a transcription factor activated by oxidative stress which induces the expression of endogenous anti-oxidant systems. We hypothesized that MMF-elicited increases in anti-oxidants would inhibit osteopenia induced by ovariectomy, as a model of aging-related osteoporosis and high oxidative stress. We demonstrated that MMF activated NRF2 and induced anti-oxidant NRF2 target gene expression in bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. Sham-operated or ovariectomized adult female mice were fed chow with or without MMF and various parameters were monitored. Ovariectomy produced the expected effects, decreasing bone mineral density and increasing body weight, fat mass, bone marrow adiposity and serum receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa-B ligand (RANKL) levels. MMF decreased fat but not lean mass. MMF improved trabecular bone microarchitecture after adjustment for body weight, although the unadjusted data showed few differences; MMF also tended to increase adjusted cortical bone and to reduce bone marrow adiposity and serum RANKL levels. Because these results suggest the possibility that MMF might be beneficial for bone, further investigation seems warranted.