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Yi Zhao, Tao Liu, Nina Zhang, Fenghua Yi, Qinghua Wang, Ivan George Fantus, and Tianru Jin

Although the homeobox gene Cdx-2 was initially isolated from the pancreatic β cell line HIT-T15, no examination of its role in regulating endogenous insulin gene expression has been reported. To explore further the role of Cdx-2 in regulating both insulin and proglucagon gene expression, we established an ecdysone-inducible Cdx-2 expression system. This report describes a study using the rat insulinoma cell line RIN-1056A, which abundantly expresses both insulin and proglucagon (glu), and relatively high amounts of endogenous Cdx-2. Following the introduction of the inducible Cdx-2 expression system into this cell line and the antibiotic selection procedure, we obtained novel cell lines that displayed dramatically reduced expression of endogenous Cdx-2, in the absence of the inducer. These novel cell lines did not express detectable amounts of glu mRNA or the glucagon hormone, while their insulin expression was not substantially affected. In the presence of the inducer, however, transfected Cdx-2 expression was dramatically increased, accompanied by stimulation of endogenous Cdx-2 expression. More importantly, activated Cdx-2 expression was accompanied by elevated insulin mRNA expression, and insulin synthesis. Cdx-2 bound to the insulin gene promoter enhancer elements, and stimulated the expression of a luciferase reporter gene driven by these enhancer elements. Furthermore, Cdx-2 and insulin gene expressions in the wild-type RIN-1056A cells were stimulated by forskolin treatment, and forskolin-mediated activation on insulin gene expression was attenuated in the absence of Cdx-2. We suggest that Cdx-2 may mediate the second messenger cAMP in regulating insulin gene transcription.

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Joshua Columbus, YuTing Chiang, Weijuan Shao, Nina Zhang, Dingyan Wang, Herbert Y Gaisano, Qinghua Wang, David M Irwin, and Tianru Jin

Specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms in intronic regions of human TCF7L2 are associated with an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Whether Tcf7l2 is expressed in pancreatic islets of rodent species at a considerable level, however, remains controversial. We used RT-PCR and quantitative RT-PCR to examine Tcf7l2 expression in rodent gut, pancreas, isolated pancreatic islets, and cultured cell lines. The expression level of Tcf7l2 was relatively lower in the pancreas compared to the gut or the pancreatic β-cell line Ins-1. Immunostaining did not detect a Tcf7l2 signal in mouse pancreatic islets. Endogenous canonical Wnt activity was not appreciable in the pancreas of TOPGAL transgenic mice. Both Tcf7 and Tcf7l1, but not Lef1, were expressed in the pancreas. The expression of the three Tcf genes (Tcf7, Tcf7l1, and Tcf7l2) in the pancreas was reduced by treatment with insulin or high-fat diet feeding, in contrast to the stimulation of Tcf7l2 expression by insulin in the gut. We suggest that hyperinsulinemia represses Tcf gene expression in the pancreas. Whether and how this reduction alters the function of pancreatic β cells during hyperinsulinemia deserves further investigation.

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Wenjuan Liu, Harry Kevin Lau, Dong Ok Son, Tianru Jin, Yehong Yang, Zhaoyun Zhang, Yiming Li, Gerald Prudhomme, and Qinghua Wang

γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1RA) improve rodent β-cell survival and function. In human β-cells, GABA exerts stimulatory effects on proliferation and anti-apoptotic effects, whereas GLP-1RA drugs have only limited effects on proliferation. We previously demonstrated that GABA and sitagliptin (Sita), a dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor which increases endogenous GLP-1 levels, mediated a synergistic β-cell protective effect in mice islets. However, it remains unclear whether this combination has similar effects on human β-cell. To address this question, we transplanted a suboptimal mass of human islets into immunodeficient NOD-scid-gamma mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, and then treated them with GABA, Sita, or both. The oral administration of either GABA or Sita ameliorated blood glucose levels, increased transplanted human β-cell counts and plasma human insulin levels. Importantly, combined administration of the drugs generated significantly superior results in all these responses, as compared to the monotherapy with either one of them. Proliferation and/or regeneration, improved by the combination, were demonstrated by increased Ki67+, PDX-1+, or Nkx6.1+ β-cell numbers. Protection against apoptosis was also significantly improved by the drug combination. The expression level of α-Klotho, a protein with protective and stimulatory effects on β cells, was also augmented. Our study indicates that combined use of GABA and Sita produced greater therapeutic benefits, which are likely due to an enhancement of β-cell proliferation and a decrease in apoptosis.

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Qinghua Wang, Jing Tang, Shujun Jiang, Zan Huang, Anying Song, Siyuan Hou, Xiang Gao, and Hai-Bin Ruan

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) is a master regulator of adipogenesis and a target of the thiazolidinedione (TZD) class of antidiabetic drugs; therefore, identifying novel regulators of PPARγ action in adipocytes is essential for the future development of therapeutics for diabetes. MAGE family member D1 (MAGED1), by acting as an adaptor for ubiquitin-dependent degradation pathways and a co-factor for transcription, plays an important role in neural development, cell differentiation and circadian rhythm. Here, we showed that MAGED1 expression was downregulated during adipogenesis and loss of MAGED1 promoted preadipocyte proliferation and differentiation in vitro. MAGED1 bound to PPARγ and suppressed the stability and transcriptional activity of PPARγ. Compared to WT littermates, MAGED1-deficient mice showed increased levels of PPARγ protein and its target genes, more CD29+CD34+Sca-1+ adipocyte precursors and hyperplasia of white adipose tissues (WATs). Moreover, MAGED1-deficient mice developed late-onset obesity as a result of decreased energy expenditure and physical activity. However, these mice were metabolically healthy as shown by improved glucose clearance and insulin sensitivity, normal levels of serum lipids and enhanced secretion of adipokines such as leptin and adiponectin. Taken together, our data identify MAGED1 as a novel negative regulator of PPARγ activity, adipogenesis and insulin sensitivity in mice. MAGED1 might therefore serve as a novel pharmaceutical target to treat obesity-associated insulin resistance.

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Yi Zhang, Yunfeng Liu, Jihong Qu, Alexandre Hardy, Nina Zhang, Jingyu Diao, Paul J Strijbos, Robert Tsushima, Richard B Robinson, Herbert Y Gaisano, Qinghua Wang, and Michael B Wheeler

Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels regulate pacemaker activity in some cardiac cells and neurons. In the present study, we have identified the presence of HCN channels in pancreatic β-cells. We then examined the functional characterization of these channels in β-cells via modulating HCN channel activity genetically and pharmacologically. Voltage-clamp experiments showed that over-expression of HCN2 in rat β-cells significantly increased HCN current (I h), whereas expression of dominant-negative HCN2 (HCN2-AYA) completely suppressed endogenous I h. Compared to control β-cells, over-expression of I h increased insulin secretion at 2.8 mmol/l glucose. However, suppression of I h did not affect insulin secretion at both 2.8 and 11.1 mmol/l glucose. Current-clamp measurements revealed that HCN2 over-expression significantly reduced β-cell membrane input resistance (R in), and resulted in a less-hyperpolarizing membrane response to the currents injected into the cell. Conversely, dominant negative HCN2-AYA expression led to a substantial increase of R in, which was associated with a more hyperpolarizing membrane response to the currents injected. Remarkably, under low extracellular potassium conditions (2.5 mmol/l K+), suppression of I h resulted in increased membrane hyperpolarization and decreased insulin secretion. We conclude that I h in β-cells possess the potential to modulate β-cell membrane potential and insulin secretion under hypokalemic conditions.

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Qiaoli Cui, Yijing Liao, Yaojing Jiang, Xiaohang Huang, Weihong Tao, Quanquan Zhou, Anna Shao, Ying Zhao, Jia Li, Anran Ma, Zhihong Wang, Li Zhang, Zunyuan Yang, Yinan Liang, Minglin Wu, Zhenyan Yang, Wen Zeng, and Qinghua Wang

Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is an insulinotropic hormone and plays an important role in regulating glucose homeostasis. GLP-1 has a short half-life (t1/2<2 min) due to degrading enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase-IV and rapid kidney clearance, which limits its clinical application as a therapeutic reagent. We demonstrated recently that supaglutide, a novel GLP-1 mimetic generated by recombinant fusion protein techniques, exerted hypoglycemic and beta cell trophic effects in type 2 diabetes db/db mice. In the present study, we examined supaglutide’s therapeutic efficacy and pharmacokinetics in diabetic rhesus monkeys. We found that a single subcutaneous injection of supaglutide of tested doses transiently and significantly reduced blood glucose levels in a dose-dependent fashion in the diabetic monkeys. During a 4-weeks intervention period, treatment of supaglutide of weekly dosing dose-dependently decreased fasting and random blood glucose levels. This was associated with significantly declined plasma fructosamine levels. The repeated administration of supaglutide remarkably also decreased body weight in a dose-dependent fashion accompanied by decreased food intake. Intravenous glucose tolerance test results showed that supaglutide improved glucose tolerance. The intervention also showed enhanced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and improved lipid profile in diabetic rhesus monkeys. These results reveal that supaglutide exerts beneficial effects in regulating blood glucose and lipid homeostasis in diabetic rhesus monkeys.

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Weijuan Shao, Wenjuan Liu, Ping Liang, Zhuolun Song, Odisho Israel, Gerald J Prud’homme, Qinghua Wang, and Tianru Jin

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration attenuates streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes in rodent models with unclear underlying mechanisms. We found that GABA and Sitagliptin possess additive effect on pancreatic β-cells, which prompted us to ask the existence of common or unique targets of GLP-1 and GABA in pancreatic β-cells. Effect of GABA on expression of thioredoxin-interacting protein (TxNIP) was assessed in the INS-1 832/13 (INS-1) cell line, WT and GLP-1R–/– mouse islets. GABA was also orally administrated in STZ-challenged WT or GLP-1R–/– mice, followed by immunohistochemistry assessment of pancreatic islets. Effect of GABA on Wnt pathway effector β-catenin (β-cat) was examined in INS-1 cells, WT and GLP-1R–/– islets. We found that GABA shares a common feature with GLP-1 on inhibiting TxNIP, while this function was attenuated in GLP-1R–/– islets. In WT mice with STZ challenge, GABA alleviated several ‘diabetic syndromes’, associated with increased β-cell mass. These features were virtually absent in GLP-1R–/– mice. Knockdown TxNIP in INS-1 cells increased GLP-1R, Pdx1, Nkx6.1 and Mafa levels, associated with increased responses to GABA or GLP-1 on stimulating insulin secretion. Cleaved caspase-3 level can be induced by high-glucose, dexamethasone, or STZ in INS-1 cell, while GABA treatment blocked the induction. Finally, GABA treatment increased cellular cAMP level and β-cat S675 phosphorylation in WT but not GLP-1R–/– islets. We, hence, identified TxNIP as a common target of GABA and GLP-1 and suggest that, upon STZ or other stress challenge, the GLP-1R-cAMP-β-cat signaling cascade also mediates beneficial effects of GABA in pancreatic β-cell, involving TxNIP reduction.