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Cuili Wang, Dongteng Liu, Weiting Chen, Wei Ge, Wanshu Hong, Yong Zhu and Shi X Chen

Our previous study showed that the in vivo positive effects of 17α,20β-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (DHP), the major progestin in zebrafish, on early spermatogenesis was much stronger than the ex vivo ones, which may suggest an effect of DHP on the expression of gonadotropins. In our present study, we first observed that fshb and lhb mRNA levels in the pituitary of male adult zebrafish were greatly inhibited by 3 weeks exposure to 10nM estradiol (E2). However, an additional 24h 100nM DHP exposure not only reversed the E2-induced inhibition, but also significantly increased the expression of fshb and lhb mRNA. These stimulatory effects were also observed in male adult fish without E2 pretreatment, and a time course experiment showed that it took 24h for fshb and 12h for lhb to respond significantly. Because these stimulatory activities were partially antagonized by a nuclear progesterone receptor (Pgr) antagonist mifepristone, we generated a Pgr-knockout (pgr –/–) model using the TALEN technique. With and without DHP in vivo treatment, fshb and lhb mRNA levels of pgr –/– were significantly lower than those of pgr +/+. Furthermore, ex vivo treatment of pituitary fragments of pgr –/– with DHP stimulated lhb, but not fshb mRNA expression. Results from double-colored fluorescent in situ hybridization showed that pgr mRNA was expressed only in fshb-expressing cells. Taken together, our results indicated that DHP participated in the regulation of neuroendocrine control of reproduction in male zebrafish, and exerted a Pgr-mediated direct stimulatory effect on fshb mRNA at pituitary level.

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Fung M-L, SY Lam, X Dong, Y Chen and PS Leung

In the present study, the effects of postnatal hypoxemia on the AT1 angiotensin receptor-mediated activities in the rat carotid body were studied. Angiotensin II (Ang II) concentration-dependently increased the chemoreceptor afferent activity in the isolated carotid body. Single- or pauci-fiber recording of the sinus nerve revealed that the afferent response to Ang II was enhanced in the postnatally hypoxic carotid body. To determine whether the increased sensitivity to Ang II is mediated by changes in the functional expression of Ang II receptors in the carotid body chemoreceptors, cytosolic calcium ([Ca2+]i) was measured by spectrofluorimetry in fura-2 acetoxymethyl ester-loaded type I cells dissociated from carotid bodies. Ang II (25-100 nM) concentration-dependently increased [Ca2+]i in the type I cells. The proportion of clusters of type I cells responsive to Ang II was higher in the postnatally hypoxic group than in the normoxic control (89 vs 66%). In addition, the peak [Ca2+]i response to Ang II was enhanced 2- to 3-fold in the postnatally hypoxic group. The [Ca2+]i response to Ang II was abolished by pretreatment with losartan (1 microM), an AT1 receptor antagonist, but not by PD-123177 (1 microM), an AT(2) antagonist. Double-labeling immunohistochemistry confirmed that an enhanced immunoreactivity for AT1 receptor was co-localized to the lobules of type I cells in the hypoxic group. In addition, RT-PCR analysis of subtypes of AT1 receptors showed an up-regulation of AT1a but a down-regulation of AT1b receptors, indicating a differential regulation of the expression of AT1 receptor subtypes by postnatal hypoxia in the carotid body. These data suggest that postnatal hypoxemia is associated with an increased sensitivity of peripheral chemoreceptors in response to Ang II and an up-regulation of AT1a receptor-mediated [Ca2+]i activity of the chemoreceptors. This modulation may be important for adaptation of carotid body functions in the hypoxic ventilatory response and in electrolyte and water homeostasis during perinatal and postnatal hypoxia.

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L Yang, CB Kuo, Y Liu, D Coss, X Xu, C Chen, ML Oster-Granite and AM Walker

During rat pregnancy initial high concentrations of prolactin (PRL) decline by about day 9, concomitant with an increase in the ratio of unmodified to phosphorylated PRL. The physiological significance of both the decline in total PRL and the change in ratio of the two PRLs is unknown. To test the importance of each, either unmodified PRL (U-PRL) or a molecular mimic of phosphorylated PRL (PP-PRL) were continuously administered to rats throughout pregnancy. A dose of 6 microg/24 h resulted in circulating concentrations of 50 ng/ml of each administered PRL and had little effect on the pregnancy itself. After birth, pups were killed and various tissues examined. In the pup lungs, exposure to additional PP-PRL caused a reduction in epithelial integrity and an increase in apoptosis, whereas exposure to additional U-PRL had beneficial, anti-apoptotic effects. In the heart, PP-PRL caused an apparent developmental delay, whereas U-PRL promoted tissue compaction. In the blood, U-PRL increased the number of mature red blood cells at the expense of white blood cell production. Within the white blood cell population, myelopoiesis was favored at the expense of lymphopoiesis. PP-PRL, in contrast, had a less dramatic influence on the hematopoietic compartment by promoting red blood cell maturation and granulocyte production. In the thymus, exposure to PP-PRL caused accumulation of apoptotic thymocytes in enlarged glands, whereas exposure to U-PRL resulted in smaller thymi. In the spleen, exposure to U-PRL increased cellularity, with the majority of cells belonging to the erythroid series - a finding consistent with increased red blood cells in the circulation. Exposure to PP-PRL was without discernible effect. In all of these tissues, the contrasting effects of the two PRLs indicate that the absolute concentration of PRL is not crucial, but that the ratio of U-PRL to PP-PRL has a profound effect on tissue development. In brown fat, both PRL preparations decreased the number of lipid droplets. This result is therefore probably a consequence of the increase in total PRL. The results of this study attest to the importance of the U-PRL:PP-PRL ratio normally present during pregnancy and have provided clues as to the possible pathogenesis of a variety of neonatal problems.

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Zhang S-L, X Chen, TJ Hsieh, M Leclerc, N Henley, A Allidina, JP Halle, MG Brunette, JG Filep, SS Tang, Ingelfinger JR and JS Chan

Clinical and animal studies have shown that treatment with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin II (Ang II) receptor antagonists slows the progression of nephropathy in diabetes, indicating that Ang II plays an important role in its development. We have reported previously that insulin inhibits the stimulatory effect of high glucose levels on angiotensinogen (ANG) gene expression in rat immortalized renal proximal tubular cells (IRPTCs) via the mitogen-activated protein kinase (p44/42 MAPK) signal transduction pathway. We hypothesize that the suppressive action of insulin on ANG gene expression might be attenuated in renal proximal tubular cells (RPTCs) of rats with established diabetes. Two groups of male adult Wistar rats were studied: controls and streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats at 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks post-STZ administration. Kidney proximal tubules were isolated and cultured in either normal glucose (i.e. 5 mM) or high glucose (i.e. 25 mM) medium to determine the inhibitory effect of insulin on ANG gene expression. Immunoreactive rat ANG (IR-rANG) in culture media and cellular ANG mRNA were measured by a specific radioimmunoassay and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assay respectively. Activation of the p44/42 MAPK signal transduction pathway in rat RPTCs was evaluated by p44/42 MAPK phosphorylation employing a PhosphoPlus p44/42 MAPK antibody kit. Insulin (10(-7) M) inhibited the stimulatory effect of high glucose levels on IR-rANG secretion and ANG gene expression and increased p44/42 MAPK phosphorylation in normal rat RPTCs. In contrast, it failed to affect these parameters in diabetic rat RPTCs. In conclusion, our studies demonstrate that hyperglycaemia induces insulin resistance on ANG gene expression in diabetic rat RPTCs by altering the MAPK signal transduction pathway.

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Y Wang, L P Wu, J Fu, H J Lv, X Y Guan, L Xu, P Chen, C Q Gao, P Hou, M J Ji and B Y Shi

Graves' disease (GD) is a common organ-specific autoimmune disease with the prevalence between 0.5 and 2% in women. Several lines of evidence indicate that the shed A-subunit rather than the full-length thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) is the autoantigen that triggers autoimmunity and leads to hyperthyroidism. We have for the first time induced GD in female rhesus monkeys, which exhibit greater similarity to patients with GD than previous rodent models. After final immunization, the monkeys injected with adenovirus expressing the A-subunit of TSHR (A-sub-Ad) showed some characteristics of GD. When compared with controls, all the test monkeys had significantly higher TSHR antibody levels, half of them had increased total thyroxine (T4) and free T4, and 50% developed goiter. To better understand the underlying mechanisms, quantitative studies on subpopulations of CD4+T helper cells were carried out. The data indicated that this GD model involved a mixed Th1 and Th2 response. Declined Treg proportions and increased Th17:Treg ratio are also observed. Our rhesus monkey model successfully mimicked GD in humans in many aspects. It would be a useful tool for furthering our understanding of the pathogenesis of GD and would potentially shorten the distance toward the prevention and treatment of this disease in human.

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C Y Shan, J H Yang, Y Kong, X Y Wang, M Y Zheng, Y G Xu, Y Wang, H Z Ren, B C Chang and L M Chen

For centuries, Berberine has been used in the treatment of enteritis in China, and it is also known to have anti-hyperglycemic effects in type 2 diabetic patients. However, as Berberine is insoluble and rarely absorbed in gastrointestinal tract, the mechanism by which it works is unclear. We hypothesized that it may act locally by ameliorating intestinal barrier abnormalities and endotoxemia. A high-fat diet combined with low-dose streptozotocin was used to induce type 2 diabetes in male Sprague Dawley rats. Berberine (100 mg/kg) was administered by lavage to diabetic rats for 2 weeks and saline was given to controls. Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance improved in the Berberine group, although there was no significant decrease in blood glucose. Berberine treatment also led to a notable restoration of intestinal villi/mucosa structure and less infiltration of inflammatory cells, along with a decrease in plasma lipopolysaccharide (LPS) level. Tight junction protein zonula occludens 1 (ZO1) was also decreased in diabetic rats but was restored by Berberine treatment. Glutamine-induced glucagon-like peptide 2 (GLP2) secretion from ileal tissue decreased dramatically in the diabetic group but was restored by Berberine treatment. Fasting insulin, insulin resistance index, plasma LPS level, and ZO1 expression were significantly correlated with GLP2 level. In type 2 diabetic rats, Berberine treatment not only augments GLP2 secretion and improves diabetes but is also effective in repairing the damaged intestinal mucosa, restoring intestinal permeability, and improving endotoxemia. Whether these effects are mechanistically related will require further studies, but they certainly support the hypothesis that Berberine acts via modulation of intestinal function.