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Shan-Jin Wang, Xin-Feng Li, Lei-Sheng Jiang and Li-Yang Dai

Regulation of the physiological processes of endochondral bone formation during long bone growth is controlled by various factors including the hormones estrogen and leptin. The effects of estrogen are mediated not only through the direct activity of estrogen receptors (ERs) but also through cross talk with other signaling systems implicated in chondrogenesis. The receptors of both estrogen and leptin (OBR (LEPR)) are detectable in growth plate chondrocytes of all zones. In this study, the expression of mRNA and protein of OBR in chondrogenic ATDC5 cells and the effect of 17β-estradiol (E2) stimulation were assessed using quantitative PCR and western blotting. We have found that the mRNA of Obr was dynamically expressed during the differentiation of ATDC5 cells over 21 days. Application of E2 (10−7 M) at day 14 for 48 h significantly upregulated OBR mRNA and protein levels (P<0.05). The upregulation of Obr mRNA by E2 was shown to take place in a concentration-dependent manner, with a concentration of 10−7 M E2 having the greatest effect. Furthermore, we have confirmed that E2 affected the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 (MAPK1/MAPK3) in a time-dependent manner where a maximal fourfold change was observed at 10 min following application of E2. Finally, pretreatment of the cells with either U0126 (ERK1/2 inhibitor) or ICI 182 780 (ER antagonist) blocked the upregulation of OBR by E2 and prevented the E2-induced phosphorylation of ERK. These data demonstrate, for the first time, the existence of cross talk between estrogen and OBR in the regulation of bone growth whereby estrogen regulates the expression of Obr in growth plate chondrocytes via ERs and the activation of ERK1/2 signaling pathways.

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Jiannan Zhang, Xin Li, Yawei Zhou, Lin Cui, Jing Li, Chenlei Wu, Yiping Wan, Juan Li and Yajun Wang

The interaction of melanocortin-4 (MC4R) and melanocortin-3 (MC3R) receptors with proopiomelanocortin (POMC)-derived peptides (e.g. α-MSH), agouti-related protein (AgRP) and melanocortin-2 receptor accessory protein 2 (MRAP2) is suggested to play critical roles in energy balance of vertebrates. However, evidence on their interaction in birds remains scarce. Our study aims to reveal their interaction in chickens and the results showed that (1) chicken (c-)MC3R and cMC4R expressed in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells can be activated by α-MSH and ACTH1–39 equipotently, monitored by a pGL3-CRE-luciferase reporter system; (2) cMC3R and cMC4R, when co-expressed with cMRAP2 (or cMRAP, a cMRAP2 homolog), show increased sensitivity to ACTH treatment and thus likely act as ACTH-preferring receptors, and the interaction between cMC3R/cMC4R and cMRAP2 was demonstrated by co-immunoprecipitation assay; (3) both cMC3R and cMC4R display constitutive activity when expressed in CHO cells, as monitored by dual-luciferase reporter assay, and cMRAP2 (and cMRAP) can modulate their constitutive activity; (4) AgRP inhibits the constitutive activity of cMC3R/cMC4R, and it also antagonizes ACTH/α-MSH action on cMC4R/cMC3R, indicating that AgRP functions as the inverse agonist and antagonist for both receptors. These findings, together with the co-expression of cMC4R, cMC3R, cMRAP2, cAgRP and cPOMC in chicken hypothalamus detected by quantitative real-time PCR, suggest that within the hypothalamus, α-MSH/ACTH, AgRP and MRAP2 may interact at the MC4R(/MC3R) interface to control energy balance. Furthermore, our data provide novel proof for the involvement of MRAP2 (and MRAP) in fine-tuning the constitutive activity and ligand sensitivity and selectivity of both MC3R and MC4R in vertebrates.

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Rachel Botchlett, Shih-Lung Woo, Mengyang Liu, Ya Pei, Xin Guo, Honggui Li and Chaodong Wu

Obesity is an ongoing pandemic and serves as a causal factor of a wide spectrum of metabolic diseases including diabetes, fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease. Much evidence has demonstrated that nutrient overload/overnutrition initiates or exacerbates inflammatory responses in tissues/organs involved in the regulation of systemic metabolic homeostasis. This obesity-associated inflammation is usually at a low-grade and viewed as metabolic inflammation. When it exists continuously, inflammation inappropriately alters metabolic pathways and impairs insulin signaling cascades in peripheral tissues/organs such as adipose tissue, the liver and skeletal muscles, resulting in local fat deposition and insulin resistance and systemic metabolic dysregulation. In addition, inflammatory mediators, e.g., proinflammatory cytokines, and excessive nutrients, e.g., glucose and fatty acids, act together to aggravate local insulin resistance and form a vicious cycle to further disturb the local metabolic pathways and exacerbate systemic metabolic dysregulation. Owing to the critical role of nutrient metabolism in controlling the initiation and progression of inflammation and insulin resistance, nutritional approaches have been implicated as effective tools for managing obesity and obesity-associated metabolic diseases. Based on the mounting evidence generated from both basic and clinical research, nutritional approaches are commonly used for suppressing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, and/or decreasing fat deposition. Consequently, the combined effects are responsible for improvement of systemic insulin sensitivity and metabolic homeostasis.

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Can Liu, Mian Zhang, Meng-yue Hu, Hai-fang Guo, Jia Li, Yun-li Yu, Shi Jin, Xin-ting Wang, Li Liu and Xiao-dong Liu

Panax ginseng is one of the most popular herbal remedies. Ginsenosides, major bioactive constituents in P. ginseng, have shown good antidiabetic action, but the precise mechanism was not fully understood. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP1) is considered to be an important incretin that can regulate glucose homeostasis in the gastrointestinal tract after meals. The aim of this study was to investigate whether ginseng total saponins (GTS) exerts its antidiabetic effects via modulating GLP1 release. Ginsenoside Rb1 (Rb1), the most abundant constituent in GTS, was selected to further explore the underlying mechanisms in cultured NCI-H716 cells. Diabetic rats were developed by a combination of high-fat diet and low-dose streptozotocin injection. The diabetic rats orally received GTS (150 or 300 mg/kg) daily for 4 weeks. It was found that GTS treatment significantly ameliorated hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia, accompanied by a significant increase in glucose-induced GLP1 secretion and upregulation of proglucagon gene expression. Data from NCI-H716 cells showed that both GTS and Rb1 promoted GLP1 secretion. It was observed that Rb1 increased the ratio of intracellular ATP to ADP concentration and intracellular Ca2 + concentration. The metabolic inhibitor azide (3 mM), the KATP channel opener diazoxide (340 μM), and the Ca2 + channel blocker nifedipine (20 μM) significantly reversed Rb1-mediated GLP1 secretion. All these results drew a conclusion that ginsenosides stimulated GLP1 secretion both in vivo and in vitro. The antidiabetic effects of ginsenosides may be a result of enhanced GLP1 secretion.

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Xin-gang Yao, Xin Xu, Gai-hong Wang, Min Lei, Ling-ling Quan, Yan-hua Cheng, Ping Wan, Jin-pei Zhou, Jing Chen, Li-hong Hu and Xu Shen

Impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) and increasing β-cell death are two typical dysfunctions of pancreatic β-cells in individuals that are destined to develop type 2 diabetes, and improvement of β-cell function through GSIS enhancement and/or inhibition of β-cell death is a promising strategy for anti-diabetic therapy. In this study, we discovered that the small molecule, N-(2-benzoylphenyl)-5-bromo-2-thiophenecarboxamide (BBT), was effective in both potentiating GSIS and protecting β-cells from cytokine- or streptozotocin (STZ)-induced cell death. Results of further studies revealed that cAMP/PKA and long-lasting (L-type) voltage-dependent Ca2 + channel/CaMK2 pathways were involved in the action of BBT against GSIS, and that the cAMP/PKA pathway was essential for the protective action of BBT on β-cells. An assay using the model of type 2 diabetic mice induced by high-fat diet combined with STZ (STZ/HFD) demonstrated that BBT administration efficiently restored β-cell functions as indicated by the increased plasma insulin level and decrease in the β-cell loss induced by STZ/HFD. Moreover, the results indicated that BBT treatment decreased fasting blood glucose and HbA1c and improved oral glucose tolerance further highlighting the potential of BBT in anti-hyperglycemia research.

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Xiaoning Li, Junhua Xiao, Yating Fan, Kan Yang, Kai Li, Xin Wang, Yanhua Lu and Yuxun Zhou

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is the ultimate signal by which the neuroendocrine system controls the puberty onset and fertility in mammals. The pulsatile release of GnRH is regulated by numerous extracellular and intracellular factors, including miRNAs. Here, we report a novel regulation mechanism mediated by miR-29 family. We found that the absence of miR-29s resulted in elevated expression of Gnrh1 in GT1-7 cells. Through in silico and wet analysis, we identified Tbx21, a target gene of miR-29, as the main effector. As a transcription activator, TBX21 stimulates the expression of Gnrh1 directly by binding to its promoter region, and indirectly by activating the expression of Dlx1, another transcription activator of Gnrh1. Stereotactic brain infusion of miR-29 inhibitor into the hypothalamus caused earlier puberty onset in prepubertal female mice than that of intact controls. The female mice with ectopic expression of Tbx21 in the hypothalamus were affected in both puberty onset and fertility, as they had higher level of serum LH and FSH, larger litter size but steeper decline of fertility compared with those of controls. Our results revealed that miR-29-3p and its target Tbx21 played a role in regulating the mammalian puberty onset and reproduction by modulating the Gnrh1 expression.

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Xin Li, Hongjiao Li, Di Zhang, Guojin Xu, Jinglin Zhang and Sheng Cui

MicroRNA-7 (miR-7) is an important modulator of a plenty of gene expressions and the interrelated biological processes, highly expressed in porcine pituitary. Norepinephrine (NE), acting as an important neurotransmitter or/and a hormone secreted excessively under stress, affects the synthesis and secretion of various hormones, including pituitary follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which are the key hormones which regulate sexual maturation and reproductive functions. However, the relationship among NE, miR-7 and gonadotropin needs to be elucidated. The aim of this study was to identify whether miR-7 involved in the NE-adrenoceptor signaling pathway affects the synthesis and secretion of FSH and LH in porcine pituitary. Our results showed that the NE intracerebroventricular injection increased pituitary miR-7 level and the synthesis and secretion of FSH and LH in porcine, whereas the inhibition of either endogenous miR-7 or β-adrenergic receptors hindered the rise of FSH and LH synthesis induced by NE in cultured primary porcine anterior pituitary cells. Further, we identified the molecular type of β-adrenergic receptors and the signaling pathway in porcine pituitary, and we found that NE played its roles relying on adrenoceptor beta 2 (β2AR) and the RAF/MEK/ERK1/2 signaling pathway. The phosphorylation of ERK1/2 upregulated miR-7 level which subsequently enhanced FSH and LH synthesis by targeting to Golgi glycoprotein 1 (GLG1). These suggest that miR-7 mediates NE’s effect on promoting FSH and LH synthesis in porcine pituitary.

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Meng Guo, Yuna Li, Yan Wang, Zhenkun Li, Xiaohong Li, Peikun Zhao, Changlong Li, Jianyi Lv, Xin Liu, Xiaoyan Du and Zhenwen Chen

Recent studies raise the possibility that eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1 alpha (eEF1A) may play a role in metabolism. One isoform, eEF1A2, is specifically expressed in skeletal muscle, heart and brain. It regulates translation elongation and signal transduction. Nonetheless, eEF1A2’s function in skeletal muscle glucose metabolism remains unclear. In the present study, suppression subtractive hybridisation showed a decrease in Eef1a2 transcripts in the skeletal muscle of diabetic Mongolian gerbils. This was confirmed at mRNA and protein levels in hyperglycaemic gerbils, and in db/db and high-fat diet-fed mice. Further, this downregulation was independent of Eef1a2 promoter methylation. Interestingly, adeno-associated virus-mediated eEF1A2 overexpression in skeletal muscle aggravated fasting hyperglycaemia, hyperinsulinaemia and glucose intolerance in male diabetic gerbils but not in female gerbil models. The overexpression of eEF1A2 in skeletal muscle also resulted in promoted serum glucose levels and insulin resistance in male db/db mice. Up- and downregulation of eEF1A2 by lentiviral vector transfection confirmed its inhibitory effect on insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and signalling transduction in C2C12 myotubes with palmitate (PA)-induced insulin resistance. Furthermore, eEF1A2 bound PKCβ and increased its activation in the cytoplasm, whereas suppression of PKCβ by an inhibitor attenuated eEF1A2-mediated impairment of insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant myotubes. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress was elevated by eEF1A2, whereas suppression of ER stress or JNK partially restored insulin sensitivity in PA-treated myotubes. Additionally, eEF1A2 inhibited lipogenesis and lipid utilisation in insulin-resistant skeletal muscle. Collectively, we demonstrated that eEF1A2 exacerbates insulin resistance in male murine skeletal muscle via PKCβ and ER stress.

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Shibin Ding, Ying Fan, Nana Zhao, Huiqin Yang, Xiaolei Ye, Dongliang He, Xin Jin, Jian Liu, Chong Tian, Hongyu Li, Shunqing Xu and Chenjiang Ying

Epidemiological findings on the association between bisphenol A (BPA, 2,2-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)propane) exposure and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are paradoxical. In animal studies, BPA has been shown to disrupt pancreatic function and blood glucose homeostasis even at a reference ‘safe’ level during perinatal period. In this study, we explored the effects of long-term paternal exposure to a ‘safe’ level of BPA on parents themselves and their offspring. Adult male genitor rats fed with either standard chow diet (STD) or high-fat diet (HFD) were treated respectively with either vehicle or BPA (50 μg/kg per day) for 35 weeks. The male rats treated with vehicle or BPA for 21 weeks were then used as sires, and the adult female rats were fed with STD during the gestation and lactation. Offspring rats were weaned on postnatal day 21 and fed with STD in later life. Metabolic parameters were recorded on the adult male rats and their adult offspring. BPA exposure disrupted glucose homeostasis and pancreatic function, and HFD aggravated these adverse effects. However, BPA exposure did not alter body weight, body fat percentage, or serum lipid. In addition, the paternal BPA exposure did not cause adverse reproductive consequence or metabolic disorder in the adult offspring. Our findings indicate that chronic exposure to a predicted ‘safe’ dose of BPA contributes to glucose metabolic disorders, and that HFD aggravates these adverse effects in paternal rats.

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Min Hu, Yuehui Zhang, Jiaxing Feng, Xue Xu, Jiao Zhang, Wei Zhao, Xiaozhu Guo, Juan Li, Edvin Vestin, Peng Cui, Xin Li, Xiao-ke Wu, Mats Brännström, Linus R Shao and Håkan Billig

Impaired progesterone (P4) signaling is linked to endometrial dysfunction and infertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Here, we report for the first time that elevated expression of progesterone receptor (PGR) isoforms A and B parallels increased estrogen receptor (ER) expression in PCOS-like rat uteri. The aberrant PGR-targeted gene expression in PCOS-like rats before and after implantation overlaps with dysregulated expression of Fkbp52 and Ncoa2, two genes that contribute to the development of uterine P4 resistance. In vivo and in vitro studies of the effects of metformin on the regulation of the uterine P4 signaling pathway under PCOS conditions showed that metformin directly inhibits the expression of PGR and ER along with the regulation of several genes that are targeted dependently or independently of PGR-mediated uterine implantation. Functionally, metformin treatment corrected the abnormal expression of cell-specific PGR and ER and some PGR-target genes in PCOS-like rats with implantation. Additionally, we documented how metformin contributes to the regulation of the PGR-associated MAPK/ERK/p38 signaling pathway in the PCOS-like rat uterus. Our data provide novel insights into how metformin therapy regulates uterine P4 signaling molecules under PCOS conditions.