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Yi Lu, Wang-sheng Wang, Yi-kai Lin, Jiang-wen Lu, Wen-jiao Li, Chu-yue Zhang and Kang Sun

Our previous studies have demonstrated that human fetal membranes are capable of de novo synthesis of serum amyloid A1 (SAA1), an acute phase protein of inflammation, wherein SAA1 may participate in parturition by inducing a number of inflammation mediators including interleukine-1β, interleukine-6 and prostaglandin E2. However, the regulation of SAA1 expression in the fetal membranes remains largely unknown. In the current study, we examined the regulation of SAA1 expression by cortisol, a crucial steroid produced locally in the fetal membranes at parturition, and the interaction between cortisol and SAA1 in the feed-forward induction of SAA1 expression in human amnion fibroblasts. Results showed that cortisol-induced SAA1 expression in a concentration-dependent manner, which was greatly enhanced by SAA1 despite modest induction of SAA1 expression by itself. Mechanism studies revealed that the induction of SAA1 expression by cortisol and SAA1 was blocked by either the transcription factor STAT3 antagonist AZD0530 or siRNA-mediated knockdown of STAT3. Furthermore, cortisol- and SAA1-induced STAT3 phosphorylation in a sequential order with the induction by SAA1 preceding the induction by cortisol. However, combination of cortisol and SAA1 failed to further intensify the phosphorylation of STAT3. Consistently, cortisol and SAA1 increased the enrichment of STAT3 at the SAA1 promoter. Taking together, this study has demonstrated that cortisol and SAA1 can reinforce each other in the induction of SAA1 expression through sequential phosphorylation of STAT3. The enhancement of cortisol-induced SAA1 expression by SAA1 may lead to excessive SAA1 accumulation resulting in parturition-associated inflammation in the fetal membranes.

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Sogol Gachkar, Sebastian Nock, Cathleen Geissler, Rebecca Oelkrug, Kornelia Johann, Julia Resch, Awahan Rahman, Anders Arner, Henriette Kirchner and Jens Mittag

It is well established that thyroid hormones are required for cardiovascular functions; however, the molecular mechanisms remain incompletely understood, especially the individual contributions of genomic and non-genomic signalling pathways. In this study, we dissected how thyroid hormones modulate aortic contractility. To test the immediate effects of thyroid hormones on vasocontractility, we used a wire myograph to record the contractile response of dissected mouse aortas to the adrenergic agonist phenylephrine in the presence of different doses of T3 (3,3′,5-triiodothyronine). Interestingly, we observed reduced vasoconstriction under low and high T3 concentrations, indicating an inversed U-shaped curve with maximal constrictive capacity at euthyroid conditions. We then tested for possible genomic actions of thyroid hormones on vasocontractility by treating mice for 4 days with 1 mg/L thyroxine in drinking water. The study revealed that in contrast to the non-genomic actions the aortas of these animals were hyperresponsive to the contractile stimulus, an effect not observed in endogenously hyperthyroid TRβ knockout mice. To identify targets of genomic thyroid hormone action, we analysed aortic gene expression by microarray, revealing several altered genes including the well-known thyroid hormone target gene hairless. Taken together, the findings demonstrate that thyroid hormones regulate aortic tone through genomic and non-genomic actions, although genomic actions seem to prevail in vivo. Moreover, we identified several novel thyroid hormone target genes that could provide a better understanding of the molecular changes occurring in the hyperthyroid aorta.

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Jennifer Miller-Gallacher, Paul Sanders, Stuart Young, Andrew Sullivan, Stuart Baker, Samuel C Reddington, Matthew Clue, Katarzyna Kabelis, Jill Clark, Jane Wilmot, Daniel Thomas, Monika Chlebowska, Francesca Cole, Emily Pearson, Emma Roberts, Matthew Holly, Michele Evans, Ricardo Núñez Miguel, Michael Powell, Jane Sanders, Jadwiga Furmaniak and Bernard Rees Smith

The crystal structures of the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR) leucine-rich repeat domain (amino acids 22–260; TSHR260) in complex with a stimulating human monoclonal autoantibody (M22TM) and in complex with a blocking human autoantibody (K1-70™) have been solved. However, attempts to purify and crystallise free TSHR260, that is not bound to an autoantibody, have been unsuccessful due to the poor stability of free TSHR260. We now describe a TSHR260 mutant that has been stabilised by the introduction of six mutations (H63C, R112P, D143P, D151E, V169R and I253R) to form TSHR260-JMG55TM, which is approximately 900 times more thermostable than wild-type TSHR260. These six mutations did not affect the binding of human TSHR monoclonal autoantibodies or patient serum TSHR autoantibodies to the TSHR260. Furthermore, the response of full-length TSHR to stimulation by TSH or human TSHR monoclonal autoantibodies was not affected by the six mutations. Thermostable TSHR260-JMG55TM has been purified and crystallised without ligand and the structure solved at 2.83 Å resolution. This is the first reported structure of a glycoprotein hormone receptor crystallised without ligand. The unbound TSHR260-JMG55TM structure and the M22 and K1-70 bound TSHR260 structures are remarkably similar except for small changes in side chain conformations. This suggests that neither the mutations nor the binding of M22TM or K1-70TM change the rigid leucine-rich repeat domain structure of TSHR260. The solved TSHR260-JMG55TM structure provides a rationale as to why the six mutations have a thermostabilising effect and provides helpful guidelines for thermostabilisation strategies of other soluble protein domains.

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Ayse Basak Engin, Atilla Engin and Ipek Isik Gonul

Adipose tissue is the primary source of many pro-inflammatory cytokines in obesity. Macrophage numbers and pro-inflammatory gene expression are positively associated with adipocyte size. Free fatty acid and tumor necrosis factor-α involve in a vicious cycle between adipocytes and macrophages aggravating inflammatory changes. Thereby, M1 macrophages form a characteristic ‘crown-like structure (CLS)’ around necrotic adipocytes in obese adipose tissue. In obese women, CLSs of breast adipose tissue are responsible for both increase in local aromatase activity and aggressive behavior of breast cancer cells. Interlinked molecular mechanisms between adipocyte–macrophage–breast cancer cells in obesity involve seven consecutive processes: Excessive release of adipocyte- and macrophage-derived inflammatory cytokines, TSC1–TSC2 complex–mTOR crosstalk, insulin resistance, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and excessive oxidative stress generation, uncoupled respiration and hypoxia, SIRT1 controversy, the increased levels of aromatase activity and estrogen production. Considering elevated risks of estrogen receptor (E2R)-positive postmenopausal breast cancer growth in obesity, adipocyte–macrophage crosstalk is important in the aforementioned issues. Increased mTORC1 signaling in obesity ensures the strong activation of oncogenic signaling in E2Rα-positive breast cancer cells. Since insulin and insulin-like growth factors have been identified as tumor promoters, hyperinsulinemia is an independent risk factor for poor prognosis in breast cancer despite peripheral insulin resistance. The unpredictable effects of adipocyte-derived leptin–estrogen–macrophage axis, and sirtuin 1 (SIRT1)–adipose-resident macrophage axis in obese postmenopausal patients with breast cancer are unresolved mechanistic gaps in the molecular links between the tumor growth and adipocytokines.

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Cristina Velasco, Sara Comesaña, Marta Conde-Sieira, Jesús M Míguez and José L Soengas

We hypothesize that cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) are involved in the modulation of metabolic regulation of food intake by fatty acids in fish. Therefore, we assessed in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) the effects of intracerebroventricular treatment with 1 ng/g of CCK-8 and with 2 ng/g of GLP-1 on food intake, expression of neuropeptides involved in food intake control and the activity of fatty acid-sensing systems in hypothalamus and hindbrain. Food intake decreased up to 24 h post-treatment to 49.8–72.3% and 3.1–17.8% for CCK-8 and GLP-1, respectively. These anorectic responses are associated with changes in fatty acid metabolism and an activation of fatty acid-sensing mechanisms in the hypothalamus and hindbrain. These changes occurred in parallel with those in the expression of anorexigenic and orexigenic peptides. Moreover, we observed that the activation of fatty acid sensing and the enhanced anorectic potential elicited by CCK-8 and GLP-1 treatments occurred in parallel with the activation of mTOR and FoxO1 and the inhibition of AMPKα, BSX and CREB. The results are discussed in the context of metabolic regulation of food intake in fish.

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Shu-Ching M Wang, Dennis H Dowhan and George E O Muscat

Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease, and the complexity of breast carcinogenesis is associated with epigenetic modification. There are several major classes of epigenetic enzymes that regulate chromatin activity. This review will focus on the nine mammalian protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) and the dysregulation of PRMT expression and function in breast cancer. This class of enzymes catalyse the mono- and (symmetric and asymmetric) di-methylation of arginine residues on histone and non-histone target proteins. PRMT signalling (and R methylation) drives cellular proliferation, cell invasion and metastasis, targeting (i) nuclear hormone receptor signalling, (ii) tumour suppressors, (iii) TGF-β and EMT signalling and (iv) alternative splicing and DNA/chromatin stability, influencing the clinical and survival outcomes in breast cancer. Emerging reports suggest that PRMTs are also implicated in the development of drug/endocrine resistance providing another prospective avenue for the treatment of hormone resistance and associated metastasis. The complexity of PRMT signalling is further underscored by the degree of alternative splicing and the scope of variant isoforms (with distinct properties) within each PRMT family member. The evolution of PRMT inhibitors, and the ongoing clinical trials of PRMT inhibitors against a subgroup of solid cancers, coupled to the track record of lysine methyltransferases inhibitors in phase I/II clinical trials against cancer underscores the potential therapeutic utility of targeting PRMT epigenetic enzymes to improve survival outcomes in aggressive and metastatic breast cancer.

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Junye Chen, Yi Lu, Mengyuan Tian and Qiren Huang

Forkhead box-O1 (FOXO1) is a downstream target of AKT and plays crucial roles in cell cycle control, apoptosis, metabolism and adipocyte differentiation. It is thought that FOXO1 affects adipocyte differentiation by regulating lipogenesis and cell cycle. With the deepening in the understanding of this field, it is currently believed that FOXO1 translocation between nuclei and cytoplasm is involved in the regulation of FOXO1 activity, thus affecting adipocyte differentiation. Translocation of FOXO1 depends on its post-translational modifications and interactions with 14-3-3. Based on these modifications and interactions, FOXO1 could regulate lipogenesis through PPARγ and the adipocyte cell cycle through p21 and p27. In this review, we aim to provide a comprehensive FOXO1 regulation network in adipocyte differentiation by linking together distinct functions mentioned above to explain their effects on adipocyte differentiation and to emphasize the regulatory role of FOXO1. In addition, we also focus on the novel findings such as the use of miRNAs in FOXO1 regulation and highlight the improvable issues, such as RNA modifications, for future research in the field.

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Yingdi Yuan, Xinguo Cao, Jiaojiao Hu, Jingyun Li, Dan Shen, Lianghui You, Xianwei Cui, Xing Wang, Yahui Zhou, Yao Gao, Lijun Zhu, Pengfei Xu, Chenbo Ji, Xirong Guo and Juan Wen

Obesity is a major risk factor for metabolic diseases, while adipocyte differentiation is closely related to obesity occurrence. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are a unique class of transcripts in regulation of various biological processes. Using lncRNA microarray, we found lncRNA Abib92159.2 was highly expressed in differentiated HPA-v and located ~247 bp upstream of the TMEM18, which was associated with BMI and obesity. We aimed to explore the role of Abib92159.2 in adipogenesis and the underlying mechanisms. The effects of Abib92159.2 gain- and loss-of-function on HPA-v adipogenesis were determined with lentivirus and siRNA-mediated cell transduction, respectively. Lipid accumulation was evaluated by oil red O staining; the expression of Abib92159.2, TMEM18 and several adipogenesis makers in HPA-v were analyzed by qPCR/Western blot. We found that the expression of Abib92159.2 gradually increased during HPA-v differentiation, and its expression in omental adipose tissue was positively related with BMI among 48 human subjects. Overexpression of Abib92159.2 promoted adipocytes differentiation while knockdown of it led to an adipogenic defect. Moreover, the expression of Abib92159.2 and TMEM18 were positively correlated during adipogenic differentiation. Abib92159.2 overexpression boosted TMEM18 expression while Abib92159.2 knockdown restrained TMEM18 expression. Further rescue experiments showed that TMEM18 knockdown partially restrained adipogenic differentiation in Abib92159.2 overexpressed HPA-v and adipogenic defect caused by Abib92159.2 knockdown could be rescued by TMEM18 overexpression. Luciferase reporter assays revealed that Abib92159.2 had a transcriptional activation effect on TMEM18. We concluded that lncRNA Abib92159.2 promoted human adipocytes differentiation possibly by regulating TMEM18.

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Megumi Iwahashi and Satoshi Narumi

Thyroid-specific transcription factor PAX8 has an indispensable role in the thyroid gland development, which is evidenced by the facts that PAX8/Pax8 mutations cause congenital hypothyroidism in humans and mice. More than 90% of known PAX8 mutations were located in the paired domain, suggesting the central role of the domain in exerting the molecular function. Structure-function relationships of PAX8, as well as other PAX family transcription factors, have never been investigated in a systematic manner. Here, we conducted the first alanine scanning mutagenesis study, in which 132 alanine variants located in the paired domain of PAX8 were created and systematically evaluated in vitro. We found that 76 alanine variants (55%) were loss of function (LOF) variants (defined by <30% activity as compared with wild type PAX8). Importantly, the distribution of LOF variants were skewed, with more frequently observed in the N-subdomain (65% of the alanine variants in the N-subdomain) than in the C-subdomain (45%). Twelve out of 13 alanine variants in residues that have been affected in patients with congenital hypothyroidism were actually LOF, suggesting that the alanine scanning data can be used to evaluate the functional importance of mutated residues. Using our in vitro data, we tested the accuracy of seven computational algorithms for pathogenicity prediction, showing that they are sensitive but not specific to evaluate on the paired domain alanine variants. Collectively, our experiment-based data would help better understand the structure-function relationships of the paired domain, and would provide a unique resource for pathogenicity prediction of future PAX8 variants.

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Norman G Nicolson, Reju Korah and Tobias Carling

Adrenocortical carcinomas are rare tumors with poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Although widely used as in vitro models to test novel therapeutic strategies, the adrenocortical carcinoma-derived cell lines NCI-H295R and SW-13 have been only partially described genetically. Our aim was to characterize the mutational landscape of these cells to improve their experimental utility and map them to clinical sub-types of adrenocortical carcinoma. Genomic DNA from NCI-H295R and SW-13 cells was subjected to whole-exome sequencing. Variants were filtered for non-synonymous mutations and curated for validated adrenocortical and pan-cancer driver gene mutations. Genes mutated in the cell lines were mapped using gene ontology and protein pathway tools to determine signaling effects and compared to mutational and clinical characteristics of 92 adrenocortical carcinoma cases from The Cancer Genome Atlas. NCI-H295R and SW-13 cells carried 1325 and 1836 non-synonymous variants, respectively. Of these, 61 and 76 were in known cancer-driver genes, of which 32 were shared between cell lines. Variant interaction analyses demonstrated dominant p53 dysregulation in both cell lines complemented by distinct Wnt (NCI-H295R) and chromatin remodeling (SW-13) pathway perturbations. Both cell lines genetically resemble more aggressive adrenocortical carcinomas with worse prognosis, for which development of targeted therapies is most critical. Careful incorporation of the genetic landscapes outlined in this study will further the in vitro utility of these cell lines in testing for novel therapeutic approaches for adrenocortical malignancy.