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Benjamin J Lamont and Sofianos Andrikopoulos

Incretin-based therapies appear to offer many advantages over other approaches for treating type 2 diabetes. Some preclinical studies have suggested that chronic activation of glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP1R) signalling in the pancreas may result in the proliferation of islet β-cells and an increase in β-cell mass. This provided hope that enhancing GLP1 action could potentially alter the natural progression of type 2 diabetes. However, to date, there has been no evidence from clinical trials suggesting that GLP1R agonists or dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) inhibitors can increase β-cell mass. Nevertheless, while the proliferative capacity of these agents remains controversial, some studies have raised concerns that they could potentially contribute to the development of pancreatitis and hence increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Currently, there are very limited clinical data to directly assess these potential benefits and risks of incretin-based therapies. However, a review of the preclinical studies indicates that incretin-based therapies probably have only a limited capacity to regenerate pancreatic β-cells, but may be useful for preserving any remaining β-cells in type 2 diabetes. In addition, the majority of preclinical evidence does not support the notion that GLP1R agonists or DPP4 inhibitors cause pancreatitis.

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Martha Lappas, Sofianos Andrikopoulos, and Michael Permezel

Appropriate foetal growth and development is dependent on adequate placental glucose uptake. Oxidative stress regulates glucose uptake in various tissues. The effect of oxidative stress on placental glucose transport is not known. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine the effect of oxidative stress on glucose uptake and glucose transporters (GLUTs) in human placenta. Human placenta was incubated in the absence or presence of 0.5 mM hypoxanthine+15 mU/ml xanthine oxidase (HX/XO) for 24 h. Gene and protein expressions of the GLUTs were analysed by quantitative RT-PCR and western blotting respectively. Glucose uptake was measured using radiolabelled (14C) glucose. HX/XO significantly decreased GLUT1 gene and protein expression and resultant glucose uptake. There was no effect of the antioxidants N-acetylcysteine, catalase and superoxide dismutase or the NF-κB inhibitor BAY 11-0782 on HX/XO-induced decrease in glucose uptake. However, HX/XO treatment significantly decreased both gene and protein expression of SIRT1. In the presence of the SIRT1 activator resveratrol, the decrease in GLUT1 expression and glucose uptake mediated by HX/XO was abolished. Collectively, the data presented here demonstrate that oxidative stress reduces placental glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression by a SIRT1-dependent mechanism.

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Barbara C Fam, Laura J Rose, Rebecca Sgambellone, Zheng Ruan, Joseph Proietto, and Sofianos Andrikopoulos

Skeletal muscle insulin resistance is a major characteristic underpinning type 2 diabetes. Impairments in the insulin responsiveness of the glucose transporter, Glut4 (Slc2a4), have been suggested to be a contributing factor to this disturbance. We have produced muscle-specific Glut4 knockout (KO) mice using Cre/LoxP technology on a C57BL6/J background and shown undetectable levels of GLUT4 in both skeletal muscle and heart. Our aim was to determine whether complete deletion of muscle GLUT4 does in fact lead to perturbations in glucose homoeostasis. Glucose tolerance, glucose turnover and 2-deoxyglucose uptake into muscle and fat under basal and insulin-stimulated conditions were assessed in 12-week-old KO and control mice using the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and hyperinsulinaemic/euglycaemic clamp respectively. KO mice weighed ∼17% less and had significantly heavier hearts compared with control mice. Basally, plasma glucose and plasma insulin were significantly lower in the KO compared with control mice, which conferred normal glucose tolerance. Despite the lack of GLUT4 in the KO mouse muscle, glucose uptake was not impaired in skeletal muscle but was reduced in heart under insulin-stimulated conditions. Neither GLUT1 nor GLUT12 protein levels were altered in the skeletal muscle or heart tissue of our KO mice. High-fat feeding did not alter glucose tolerance in the KO mice but led to elevated plasma insulin levels during the glucose tolerance test. Our study demonstrates that deletion of muscle GLUT4 does not adversely affect glucose disposal and glucose tolerance and that compensation from other transporters may contribute to this unaltered homoeostasis of glucose.

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Barbara C Fam, Rebecca Sgambellone, Zheng Ruan, Joseph Proietto, and Sofianos Andrikopoulos

Obesity susceptibility in humans and in rodent strains varies in response to the consumption of high-energy density (HED) diets. However, the exact mechanism(s) involved in this susceptibility remain(s) unresolved. The aim of the present study was to gain greater insight into this susceptibility by using C57BL/6J (B6) mice that were separated into obesity-prone (diet-induced obese (DIO)) and obesity-resistant (diet-induced resistant (DR)) groups following an HED diet for 6 weeks. Physiological, biochemical and gene expression assessments of energy balance were performed in the DIO and DR mice on an HED diet and chow-fed mice. The increased weight gain of the DIO mice as compared to the DR mice was associated with increased energy intake and higher plasma leptin and adiponectin levels but not with reduced physical activity or resting energy expenditure. Hypothalamic Pomc gene expression was elevated, but there were no changes in Npy or Agrp expression. Adipose tissue leptin and adiponectin gene expression were significantly reduced in the DIO group as compared to the DR group. Interestingly, ileum expression of G protein-coupled receptor (Gpr) 40 (Gpr40) was significantly increased, whereas Gpr120, Gpr119, Gpr41, and glucagon-like peptide 1 (Glp1) were reduced. Contrastingly, the lower weight gain of the DR group was associated with elevated adipose tissue leptin and adiponectin gene expression, but there were no differences in plasma hormone or hypothalamic gene expression levels as compared to chow-fed mice. Therefore, the present data demonstrate that susceptibility and resistance to diet-induced weight gain in B6 mice appears to be predominantly driven by peripheral rather than hypothalamic modifications, and changes in gut-specific receptors are a potentially important contributor to this variation.

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Simone Radavelli-Bagatini, Amy R Blair, Joseph Proietto, Poli Mara Spritzer, and Sofianos Andrikopoulos

Infertility, associated with oligo/anovulation, increased ovarian volume, numerous follicular cysts, and metabolic disturbances such as obesity and insulin resistance (IR) are characteristics common to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. Here, we show that New Zealand obese (NZO) mice display similar metabolic characteristics such as obesity, leptin insensitivity, glucose intolerance, and IR. Importantly, NZO mice are poor breeders; however, the mechanism for this has not been investigated. The aim of this study was to assess the ovarian structure/morphology and sex hormone levels in female NZO and lean C57BL/6J control mice. Twenty-five NZO and twenty female control mice were studied at three different ages (young, adult, and aged). The animals were weighed, an insulin tolerance test was carried out, and blood was collected for measurement of hormone levels. The ovaries were removed for histological analysis. As expected, NZO mice presented higher body weights (P=0.001), increased basal plasma glucose (P=0.007), and insulin levels (P=0.001) as well as IR, compared with control mice. NZO mice showed an increased ovarian volume, reduced numbers of corpora lutea, and higher total follicle numbers (P=0.0001). The number of primordial follicles increased (P=0.02) at the young stage, as well as the amount of atretic follicles (P=0.03), in NZO compared with control mice. NZO mice also displayed reduced plasma LH and increased estradiol levels. In conclusion, NZO mice show a poor breeding performance due to decreased ovulation, increased number of primordial and atretic follicles, and ovarian size. Given that NZO mice are obese, hyperinsulinemic and insulin resistant, they are suitable for investigating pathophysiological mechanisms linking metabolic alterations with reproductive defects.

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Salvatore P Mangiafico, Shueh H Lim, Sandra Neoh, Helene Massinet, Christos N Joannides, Joseph Proietto, Sofianos Andrikopoulos, and Barbara C Fam

Increased glucose production is associated with fasting hyperglycaemia in type 2 diabetes but whether or not it causes glucose intolerance is unclear. This study sought to determine whether a primary defect in gluconeogenesis (GNG) resulting in elevated glucose production is sufficient to induce glucose intolerance in the absence of insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion. Progression of glucose intolerance was assessed in phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) transgenic rats, a genetic model with a primary increase in GNG. Young (4–5 weeks of age) and adult (12–14 weeks of age) PEPCK transgenic and Piebald Virol Glaxo (PVG/c) control rats were studied. GNG, insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion and glucose tolerance were assessed by intraperitoneal and intravascular substrate tolerance tests and hyperinsulinaemic/euglycaemic clamps. Despite elevated GNG and increased glucose appearance, PEPCK transgenic rats displayed normal glucose tolerance due to adequate glucose disposal and robust glucose-mediated insulin secretion. Glucose intolerance only became apparent in the PEPCK transgenic rats following the development of insulin resistance (both hepatic and peripheral) and defective glucose-mediated insulin secretion. Taken together, a single genetic defect in GNG leading to increased glucose production does not adversely affect glucose tolerance. Insulin resistance and impaired glucose-mediated insulin secretion are required to precipitate glucose intolerance in a setting of chronic glucose oversupply.

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Rebecca L Hull, Joshua R Willard, Matthias D Struck, Breanne M Barrow, Gurkirat S Brar, Sofianos Andrikopoulos, and Sakeneh Zraika

Mouse models are widely used for elucidating mechanisms underlying type 2 diabetes. Genetic background profoundly affects metabolic phenotype; therefore, selecting the appropriate model is critical. Although variability in metabolic responses between mouse strains is now well recognized, it also occurs within C57BL/6 mice, of which several substrains exist. This within-strain variability is poorly understood and could emanate from genetic and/or environmental differences. To better define the within-strain variability, we performed the first comprehensive comparison of insulin secretion from C57BL/6 substrains 6J, 6JWehi, 6NJ, 6NHsd, 6NTac and 6NCrl. In vitro, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion correlated with Nnt mutation status, wherein responses were uniformly lower in islets from C57BL/6J vs C57BL/6N mice. In contrast, in vivo insulin responses after 18 weeks of low fat feeding showed no differences among any of the six substrains. When challenged with a high-fat diet for 18 weeks, C57BL/6J substrains responded with a similar increase in insulin release. However, variability was evident among C57BL/6N substrains. Strikingly, 6NJ mice showed no increase in insulin release after high fat feeding, contributing to the ensuing hyperglycemia. The variability in insulin responses among high-fat-fed C57BL/6N mice could not be explained by differences in insulin sensitivity, body weight, food intake or beta-cell area. Rather, as yet unidentified genetic and/or environmental factor(s) are likely contributors. Together, our findings emphasize that caution should be exercised in extrapolating data from in vitro studies to the in vivo situation and inform on selecting the appropriate C57BL/6 substrain for metabolic studies.

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Sofianos Andrikopoulos, Barbara C Fam, Anita Holdsworth, Sherley Visinoni, Zheng Ruan, Maria Stathopoulos, Anne W Thorburn, Christos N Joannides, Michael Cancilla, Lois Balmer, Joseph Proietto, and Grant Morahan

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is associated with defective insulin secretion, which in turn contributes to worsening glycaemic control and disease progression. The genetic cause(s) associated with impaired insulin secretion in T2D are not well elucidated. Here we used the polygenic New Zealand Obese (NZO) mouse model, which displays all the cardinal features of T2D including hyperglycaemia to identify genes associated with β-cell dysfunction. A genome-wide scan identified a major quantitative trait locus (QTL) on chromosome 7 associated with defective glucose-mediated insulin secretion. Using congenic strains, the locus was narrowed to two candidate genes encoding the components of the KATP channel: Abcc8 (SUR1) and Kcnj11 (Kir6.2). The NZO Abcc8 allele was associated with a ∼211 bp deletion in its transcript and reduced expression of SUR1. Transgenic NZO mice were generated that expressed the WT Abcc8/Kcnj11 genes and displayed significant improvements in early-phase glucose-mediated insulin secretion and glucose tolerance, confirming Abcc8 as a causative gene. Importantly, we showed that despite improving β-cell function in the NZO transgenic mice, there was no enhancement of insulin sensitivity or body weight. This study provides evidence for a role of Abcc8 in early-phase glucose-mediated insulin secretion and validates this gene as a contributor to β-cell dysfunction in T2D.

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Sofianos Andrikopoulos, Christine M Massa, Kathryn Aston-Mourney, Alexandra Funkat, Barbara C Fam, Rebecca L Hull, Steven E Kahn, and Joseph Proietto

The increasing production of genetically-modified mouse models has necessitated studies to determine the inherent physiological characteristics of commonly used mouse strains. In this study we examined insulin secretory function in response to an intravenous bolus of glucose or glucose plus arginine in anesthetized C57BL/6, DBA/2 and 129T2 mice fed either a control or high fat diet for 6 weeks. The results show that 129T2 mice had higher fasting plasma glucose levels and lower fasting plasma insulin levels compared with C57BL/6 and DBA/2 mice regardless of diet. Furthermore, 129T2 mice were glucose intolerant and secreted significantly less insulin in response to glucose and glucose plus arginine irrespective of diet compared with the other two strains of mice. DBA/2 mice hypersecreted insulin in response to glucose and glucose plus arginine compared with C57BL/6 and 129T2 mice. Moreover while first phase insulin secretion was appropriately increased in response to the high fat diet in C57BL/6 and 129T2 mice, this was not the case for DBA/2 mice. Mean islet area was decreased in response to a high fat diet in DBA/2 mice, while there was no dietary effect on the other two strains. This study highlights the inherent genetic differences that exist among seemingly normal strains of mice that are commonly used to make transgenic and knockout mice. Understanding these differences will provide researchers with the information to choose the appropriate genetic background on which to express their particular genetic alteration.

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Patricia K Russell, Salvatore Mangiafico, Barbara C Fam, Michele V Clarke, Evelyn S Marin, Sofianos Andrikopoulos, Kristine M Wiren, Jeffrey D Zajac, and Rachel A Davey

It is well established that testosterone negatively regulates fat mass in humans and mice; however, the mechanism by which testosterone exerts these effects is poorly understood. We and others have shown that deletion of the androgen receptor (AR) in male mice results in a phenotype that mimics the three key clinical aspects of hypogonadism in human males; increased fat mass and decreased bone and muscle mass. We now show that replacement of the Ar gene specifically in mesenchymal progenitor cells (PCs) residing in the bone marrow of Global-ARKO mice, in the absence of the AR in all other tissues (PC-AR Gene Replacements), completely attenuates their increased fat accumulation. Inguinal subcutaneous white adipose tissue and intra-abdominal retroperitoneal visceral adipose tissue depots in PC-AR Gene Replacement mice were 50–80% lower than wild-type (WT) and 75–90% lower than Global-ARKO controls at 12 weeks of age. The marked decrease in subcutaneous and visceral fat mass in PC-AR Gene Replacements was associated with an increase in the number of small adipocytes and a healthier metabolic profile compared to WT controls, characterised by normal serum leptin and elevated serum adiponectin levels. Euglycaemic/hyperinsulinaemic clamp studies reveal that the PC-AR Gene Replacement mice have improved whole-body insulin sensitivity with higher glucose infusion rates compared to WT mice and increased glucose uptake into subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat. In conclusion, these data provide the first evidence for an action of androgens via the AR in mesenchymal bone marrow PCs to negatively regulate fat mass and improve metabolic function.