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Dipali Goyal, Sean W Limesand, and Ravi Goyal

Maternal and paternal factors influence offspring development and program its genome for successful postnatal life. Based on the stressors during gestation, the pregnant female prepares the fetus for the outside environment. This preparation is achieved by changing the epigenome of the fetus and is referred to as ‘developmental programming’. For instance, nutritional insufficiency in utero will lead to programming events that prepare the fetus to cope up with nutrient scarcity following birth; however, offspring may not face nutrient scarcity following birth. This discrepancy between predicted and exposed postnatal environments are perceived as ‘stress’ by the offspring and may result in cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Thus, this developmental programming may be both beneficial as well as harmful depending on the prenatal vs postnatal environment. Over the past three decades, accumulating evidence supports the hypothesis of Developmental Origin of Health and Disease (DOHaD) by the programming of the fetal phenotype without altering the genotype per se. These heritable modifications in gene expression occur through DNA methylation, histone modification and noncoding RNA-associated gene activation or silencing, and all are defined as epigenetic modifications. In the present review, we will summarize the evidence supporting epigenetic regulation as a significant component in DOHaD.

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Alice S Green, Paul J Rozance, and Sean W Limesand

Free access

Alice S Green, Paul J Rozance, and Sean W Limesand

Low birth weight is an important risk factor for impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes later in life. One hypothesis is that fetal β-cells inherit a persistent defect as a developmental response to fetal malnutrition, a primary cause of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Our understanding of fetal programing events in the human endocrine pancreas is limited, but several animal models of IUGR extend our knowledge of developmental programing in β-cells. Pathological outcomes such as β-cell dysfunction, impaired glucose tolerance, and diabetes are often observed in adult offspring from these animal models, similar to the associations of low birth weight and metabolic diseases in humans. However, the identified mechanisms underlying β-cell dysfunction across models and species are varied, likely resulting from the different methodologies used to induce experimental IUGR, as well as from intraspecies differences in pancreas development. In this review, we first present the evidence for human β-cell dysfunction being associated with low birth weight or IUGR. We then evaluate relevant animal models of IUGR, focusing on the strengths of each, in order to define critical periods and types of nutrient deficiencies that can lead to impaired β-cell function. These findings frame our current knowledge of β-cell developmental programing and highlight future research directions to clarify the mechanisms of β-cell dysfunction for human IUGR.

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Lori Cole, Miranda Anderson, Parker B Antin, and Sean W Limesand

Islet replacement is a promising therapy for treating diabetes mellitus, but the supply of donor tissue for transplantation is limited. To overcome this limitation, endocrine tissue can be expanded, but this requires an understanding of normal developmental processes that regulate islet formation. In this study, we compare pancreas development in sheep and human, and provide evidence that an epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is involved in β-cell differentiation and islet formation. Transcription factors know to regulate pancreas formation, pancreatic duodenal homeobox factor 1, neurogenin 3, NKX2-2, and NKX6-1, which were expressed in the appropriate spatial and temporal pattern to coordinate pancreatic bud outgrowth and direct endocrine cell specification in sheep. Immunofluorescence staining of the developing pancreas was used to co-localize insulin and epithelial proteins (cytokeratin, E-cadherin, and β-catenin) or insulin and a mesenchymal protein (vimentin). In sheep, individual β-cells become insulin-positive in the progenitor epithelium, then lose epithelial characteristics, and migrate out of the epithelial layer to form islets. As β-cells exit the epithelial progenitor cell layer, they acquire mesenchymal characteristics, shown by their acquisition of vimentin. In situ hybridization expression analysis of the SNAIL family members of transcriptional repressors (SNAIL1, -2, and -3; listed as SNAI1, -2, -3 in the HUGO Database) showed that each of the SNAIL genes was expressed in the ductal epithelium during development, and SNAIL-1 and -2 were co-expressed with insulin. Our findings provide strong evidence that the movement of β-cells from the pancreatic ductal epithelium involves an EMT.

Free access

Brit H Boehmer, Sean W Limesand, and Paul J Rozance

Placental insufficiency is a primary cause of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). IUGR increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) throughout life, which indicates that insults from placental insufficiency impair β-cell development during the perinatal period because β-cells have a central role in the regulation of glucose tolerance. The severely IUGR fetal pancreas is characterized by smaller islets, less β-cells, and lower insulin secretion. Because of the important associations among impaired islet growth, β-cell dysfunction, impaired fetal growth, and the propensity for T2DM, significant progress has been made in understanding the pathophysiology of IUGR and programing events in the fetal endocrine pancreas. Animal models of IUGR replicate many of the observations in severe cases of human IUGR and allow us to refine our understanding of the pathophysiology of developmental and functional defects in islet from IUGR fetuses. Almost all models demonstrate a phenotype of progressive loss of β-cell mass and impaired β-cell function. This review will first provide evidence of impaired human islet development and β-cell function associated with IUGR and the impact on glucose homeostasis including the development of glucose intolerance and diabetes in adulthood. We then discuss evidence for the mechanisms regulating β-cell mass and insulin secretion in the IUGR fetus, including the role of hypoxia, catecholamines, nutrients, growth factors, and pancreatic vascularity. We focus on recent evidence from experimental interventions in established models of IUGR to understand better the pathophysiological mechanisms linking placental insufficiency with impaired islet development and β-cell function.

Free access

Sean W Limesand, Kent L Thornburg, and Jane E Harding

Open access

Laura L Hernandez, Sean W Limesand, Jayne L Collier, Nelson D Horseman, and Robert J Collier

Recent studies in dairy cows have demonstrated that serotonergic ligands affect milk yield and composition. Correspondingly, serotonin (5-HT) has been demonstrated to be an important local regulator of lactational homeostasis and involution in mouse and human mammary cells. We determined the mRNA expression of bovine 5-HT receptor (HTR) subtypes in bovine mammary tissue (BMT) and used pharmacological agents to evaluate functional activities of 5-HT receptors. The mRNAs for five receptor isoforms (HTR1B, 2A, 2B, 4, and 7) were identified by conventional real-time (RT)-PCR, RT quantitative PCR, and in situ hybridization in BMT. In addition to luminal mammary epithelial cell expression, HTR4 was expressed in myoepithelium, and HTR1B, 2A, and 2B were expressed in small mammary blood vessels. Serotonin suppressed milk protein mRNA expression (α-lactalbumin and β-casein mRNA) in lactogen-treated primary bovine mammary epithelial cell (BMEC) cultures. To probe the functional activities of individual receptors, caspase-3 activity and expression of α-lactalbumin and β-casein were measured. Both SB22489 (1B antagonist) and ritanserin (2A antagonist) increased caspase-3 activity. Expression of α-lactalbumin and β-casein mRNA levels in BMEC were stimulated by low concentrations of SB224289, ritanserin, or pimozide. These results demonstrate that there are multiple 5-HT receptor isoforms in the bovine mammary gland, and point to profound differences between serotonergic systems of the bovine mammary gland and the human and mouse mammary glands. Whereas human and mouse mammary epithelial cells express predominately the protein for the 5-HT7 receptor, cow mammary epithelium expresses multiple receptors that have overlapping, but not identical, functional activities.

Free access

Xiaochuan Chen, Amy C Kelly, Dustin T Yates, Antoni R Macko, Ronald M Lynch, and Sean W Limesand

Complications in pregnancy elevate fetal norepinephrine (NE) concentrations. Previous studies in NE-infused sheep fetuses revealed that sustained exposure to high NE resulted in lower expression of α2-adrenergic receptors in islets and increased insulin secretion responsiveness after acutely terminating the NE infusion. In this study, we determined if the compensatory increase in insulin secretion after chronic elevation of NE is independent of hyperglycemia in sheep fetuses and whether it is persistent in conjunction with islet desensitization to NE. After an initial assessment of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) at 129 ± 1 days of gestation, fetuses were continuously infused for seven days with NE and maintained at euglycemia with a maternal insulin infusion. Fetal GSIS studies were performed again on days 8 and 12. Adrenergic sensitivity was determined in pancreatic islets collected at day 12. NE infusion increased (P < 0.01) fetal plasma NE concentrations and lowered (P < 0.01) basal insulin concentrations compared to vehicle-infused controls. GSIS was 1.8-fold greater (P < 0.05) in NE-infused fetuses compared to controls at both one and five days after discontinuing the infusion. Glucose-potentiated arginine-induced insulin secretion was also enhanced (P < 0.01) in NE-infused fetuses. Maximum GSIS in islets isolated from NE-infused fetuses was 1.6-fold greater (P < 0.05) than controls, but islet insulin content and intracellular calcium signaling were not different between treatments. The half-maximal inhibitory concentration for NE was 2.6-fold greater (P < 0.05) in NE-infused islets compared to controls. These findings show that chronic NE exposure and not hyperglycemia produce persistent adaptations in pancreatic islets that augment β-cell responsiveness in part through decreased adrenergic sensitivity.

Free access

Alice S Green, Xiaochuan Chen, Antoni R Macko, Miranda J Anderson, Amy C Kelly, Nathaniel J Hart, Ronald M Lynch, and Sean W Limesand

Children from diabetic pregnancies have a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes. Our objective was to determine if exposure to mild–moderate hyperglycemia, by modeling managed diabetic pregnancies, affects fetal β-cell function. In sheep fetuses, β-cell responsiveness was examined after 2 weeks of sustained hyperglycemia with 3 pulses/day, mimicking postprandial excursions, and compared to saline-infused controls (n=10). Two pulsatile hyperglycemia (PHG) treatments were studied: mild (mPHG, n=5) with +15% sustained and +55% pulse; and moderate (PHG, n=10) with +20% sustained and +100% pulse. Fetal glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and glucose-potentiated arginine insulin secretion were lower (P<0.05) in PHG (0.86±0.13 and 2.91±0.39 ng/ml plasma insulin) but not in mPHG fetuses (1.21±0.08 and 4.25±0.56 ng/ml) compared to controls (1.58±0.25 and 4.51±0.56 ng/ml). Islet insulin content was 35% lower in PHG and 35% higher in mPHG vs controls (P<0.01). Insulin secretion and maximally stimulated insulin release were also reduced (P<0.05) in PHG islets due to lower islet insulin content. Isolated PHG islets also had 63% greater (P<0.01) reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation at 11.1 mmol/l glucose than controls (P<0.01), but oxidative damage was not detected in islet proteins. PHG fetuses showed evidence of oxidative damage to skeletal muscle proteins (P<0.05) but not insulin resistance. Our findings show that PHG induced dysregulation of islet ROS handling and decreased islet insulin content, but these outcomes are independent. The β-cell outcomes were dependent on the severity of hyperglycemia because mPHG fetuses had no distinguishable impairments in ROS handling or insulin secretion but greater insulin content.

Restricted access

Melissa A Davis, Leticia E Camacho, Alexander L Pendleton, Andrew T Antolic, Rosa I Luna-Ramirez, Amy C Kelly, Nathan R Steffens, Miranda J Anderson, and Sean W Limesand

Fetuses with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) have high concentrations of catecholamines, which lowers the insulin secretion and glucose uptake. Here, we studied the effect of hypercatecholaminemia on glucose metabolism in sheep fetuses with placental insufficiency-induced IUGR. Norepinephrine concentrations are elevated throughout late gestation in IUGR fetuses but not in IUGR fetuses with a bilateral adrenal demedullation (IAD) at 0.65 of gestation. Euglycemic (EC) and hyperinsulinemic–euglycemic (HEC) clamps were performed in control, intact-IUGR, and IAD fetuses at 0.87 of gestation. Compared to controls, basal oxygen, glucose, and insulin concentrations were lower in IUGR groups. Norepinephrine concentrations were five-fold higher in IUGR fetuses than in IAD fetuses. During the EC, rates of glucose entry (GER, umbilical + exogenous), glucose utilization (GUR), and glucose oxidation (GOR) were greater in IUGR groups than in controls. In IUGR and IAD fetuses with euglycemia and euinsulinemia, glucose production rates (GPR) remained elevated. During the HEC, GER and GOR were not different among groups. In IUGR and IAD fetuses, GURs were 40% greater than in controls, which paralleled the sustained GPR despite hyperinsulinemia. Glucose-stimulated insulin concentrations were augmented in IAD fetuses compared to IUGR fetuses. Fetal weights were not different between IUGR groups but were less than controls. Regardless of norepinephrine concentrations, IUGR fetuses not only develop greater peripheral insulin sensitivity for glucose utilization but also develop hepatic insulin resistance because GPR was maintained and unaffected by euglycemia or hyperinsulinemia. These findings show that adaptation in glucose metabolism of IUGR fetuses are independent of catecholamines, which implicate that hypoxemia and hypoglycemia cause the metabolic responses.