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Patric J D Delhanty, Martin Huisman, Karina Prins, Cobie Steenbergen, Rosinda Mies, Sebastian J C M M Neggers, A J van der Lely, and Jenny A Visser

Acylated ghrelin (AG) is a gut-derived peptide with growth hormone secretagogue (GHS), orexigenic and other physiological activities mediated by GHS receptor-1a (GHSR). Ghrelin occurs in unacylated form (UAG) with activities opposing AG, although its mechanism of action is unknown. UAG does not antagonize AG at GHSR, and has biological effects on cells that lack this receptor. Because UAG binds to cells, it has been hypothesized that UAG acts via a cell-surface receptor, although this has not been confirmed. This study aimed to identify cell surface proteins to which UAG binds that could modulate or mediate its biological effects. The MCF7 cell-line was used as a model because UAG induces ERK signaling in these cells in the absence of GHSR. Using ligand–receptor capture and LC-MS/MS we identified specific heparan-sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) to which UAG interacts on cell surfaces. In line with this, UAG, as well as AG, bind with high affinity to heparin, and heparin and heparinase treatment suppress, whereas HSPG overexpression increases, UAG binding to MCF7 cell surfaces. Moreover, heparin suppresses the ERK response to UAG. However, conversion of the lysines in UAG to alanine, which prevents its binding to heparin and cell surface HSPGs, does not prevent its activation of ERK. Our data show that the interaction of UAG with HSPGs modulates its biological activity in cells. More broadly, the interaction of UAG and AG with HSPGs could be important for the specificity and potency of their biological action in vivo.

Open access

Feng Zhang, Qi Xiong, Hu Tao, Yang Liu, Nian Zhang, Xiao-Feng Li, Xiao-Jun Suo, Qian-Ping Yang, and Ming-Xin Chen

Acyl-Coenzyme A oxidase 1 (ACOX1) is the first and rate-limiting enzyme in peroxisomal fatty acid β-oxidation of fatty acids. Previous studies have reported that ACOX1 was correlated with the meat quality of livestock, while the role of ACOX1 in intramuscular adipogenesis of beef cattle and its transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms remain unclear. In the present study, gain-of-function and loss-of-function assays demonstrated that ACOX1 positively regulated the adipogenesis of bovine intramuscular preadipocytes. The C/EBPα-binding sites in the bovine ACOX1 promoter region at -1142 to -1129 bp, -831 to -826 bp, and -303 to -298 bp were identified by promoter deletion analysis and site-directed mutagenesis. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) further showed that these three regions are C/EBPα-binding sites, both in vitro and in vivo, indicating that C/EBPα directly interacts with the bovine ACOX1 promoter and inhibits its transcription. Furthermore, the results from bioinformatics analysis, dual luciferase assay, site-directed mutagenesis, qRT-PCR, and Western blotting demonstrated that miR-25-3p directly targeted the ACOX1 3’untranslated region (3’UTR). Taken together, our findings suggest that ACOX1, regulated by transcription factor C/EBPα and miR-25-3p, promotes adipogenesis of bovine intramuscular preadipocytes via regulating peroxisomal fatty acid β-oxidation.

Free access

Mathieu Vernier and Vincent Giguère

Aging is a degenerative process that results from the accumulation of cellular and tissue lesions, leading progressively to organ dysfunction and death. Although the biological basis of human aging remains unclear, a large amount of data points to deregulated mitochondrial function as a central regulator of this process. Mounting years of research on aging support the notion that the engendered age-related decline of mitochondria is associated with alterations in key pathways that regulate mitochondrial biology. Particularly, several studies in the last decade have emphasized the importance of the estrogen-related receptor (ERR) family of nuclear receptors, master regulators of mitochondrial function, and their transcriptional coactivators PGC-1s in this context. In this review, we summarize key discoveries implicating the PGC-1/ERR axis in age-associated mitochondrial deregulation and tissue dysfunction. Also, we highlight the pharmacological potential of targeting the PGC-1/ERR axis to alleviate the onset of aging and its adverse effects.

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Ting Yan, Wangwang Qiu, Jianlu Song, Youben Fan, and Zhili Yang

The diagnosis and treatment of recurrence and metastasis in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) are still clinical challenges. One of the key factors is the lack of specific diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets for recurrence and metastasis. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) has emerged as a powerful approach to find specific biomarkers by dissecting expression profiling in human cancers at the resolution of individual cells. Here, we investigated cell profiles of the primary tumor and lymph node metastasis and paracancerous normal tissues in one PTC patient using scRNA-seq, and compared individual cell gene expression differences. The transcriptomes of 11,805 single cells were profiled, and malignant cells exhibited a profound transcriptional overlap between primary and metastatic lesions, but there were differences in the composition and quantity of non-malignant cells. ARHGAP36 was one of the genes that were highly expressed in almost all of the primary and metastatic malignant cells without non-malignant or normal follicular cells and was then confirmed by immunostaining in a sample cohort. Compared with the paracancerous normal tissue, the expression of ARHGAP36 in primary and metastatic carcinoma tissues was significantly higher as assayed by qRT-PCR. ARHGAP36 knockdown significantly inhibited the proliferation and migration of PTC cells in vitro and involved several proliferation and migration-associated signaling pathways by RNA seq. Our study demonstrated that ARHGAP36 is exclusively expressed in the malignant cells of primary PTC, as well as metastatic lesions, and regulates their proliferation and migration, meaning it can be used as a potential diagnostic marker and therapeutic target molecule.

Open access

Claire V Harper, Anne V McNamara, David G Spiller, Jayne C Charnock, Michael R H White, and Julian R E Davis

Pituitary cells have been reported to show spontaneous calcium oscillations and dynamic transcription cycles. To study both processes in the same living cell in real time, we used rat pituitary GH3 cells stably expressing human prolactin-luciferase or prolactin-EGFP reporter gene constructs loaded with a fluorescent calcium indicator and measured activity using single-cell time-lapse microscopy. We observed heterogeneity between clonal cells in the calcium activity and prolactin transcription in unstimulated conditions. There was a significant correlation between cells displaying spontaneous calcium spikes and cells showing spontaneous bursts in prolactin expression. Notably, cells showing no basal calcium activity showed low prolactin expression but elicited a significantly greater transcriptional response to BayK8644 compared to cells showing basal calcium activity. This suggested the presence of two subsets of cells within the population at any one time. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting was used to sort cells into two populations based on the expression level of prolactin-EGFP however, the bimodal pattern of expression was restored within 26 h. Chromatin immunoprecipitation showed that these sorted populations were distinct due to the extent of histone acetylation. We suggest that maintenance of a heterogeneous bimodal population is a fundamental characteristic of this cell type and that calcium activation and histone acetylation, at least in part, drive prolactin transcriptional competence.

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Maria J Salazar, Adriana R Rodrigues, Mafalda Sousa, José Magalhães, Delminda Neves, Henrique Almeida, and Alexandra M Gouveia

White adipose tissue (WAT) browning is a potent mechanism to dissipate energy as heat and, thus, its activation constitutes a promise therapeutic approach to obesity. We previously reported the melanocortin α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) ability to increase the number of beige cells in subcutaneous inguinal WAT (ingWAT) in high fat diet (HFD)-fed mice. The current study examined the browning effect of intraperitoneally administered α-MSH on diverse fat depots from mice fed with HFD or standard rodent diet (SD). For this, mRNA expression of browning hallmark genes was quantified concomitantly with histological examination of the adipose tissue samples (epidydimal (eWAT), mesenteric (mWAT), retroperitoneal (rpWAT) or ingWAT). As well, α-MSH impact on body weight, serum profile, WAT mass and lipolytic rates were evaluated. In the visceral depots mWAT, eWAT and rpWAT from HFD-fed mice, α-MSH was not able to induce a browning mechanism. Surprisingly, in SD-fed mice, α-MSH decreased the expression of several beige-specific genes in rpWAT and promoted an increase of the size of lipid droplets. No browning effect was observed in ingWAT from SD-fed mice. We also verified that HFD ingestion per se stimulated the browning mechanisms in rpWAT, but not in mWAT and eWAT. In conclusion, the fat depots from diverse anatomical locations respond differently to α-MSH treatment when exposed to different diets.

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Xue Wen, Yao Xiong, Huimin Liu, Ting Geng, Ling Jin, Ming Zhang, Ling Ma, and Yuanzhen Zhang

The aberrant histone methylation patterns contribute to the pathogenesis of endometriosis (EM). Mixed lineage leukemia 1 (MLL1), a histone methyltransferase, is crucial for gene expression by catalyzing the trimethylation of histone 3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3) in gene promoter. This study aimed to explore whether MLL1 is involved in EM-related infertility. The expressions of MLL1 and H3K4me3 were analyzed in the eutopic endometria from EM women with infertility (n = 22) and the normal endometria from EM-free women (n = 22). Mouse EM model was established. The MLL1 and H3K4me3 expression patterns in mice endometria of early pregnancy were also investigated. Immortalized human endometrial stromal cells (iESCs) were cultured and underwent in vitro decidualization. The chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP-seq) was performed to find the target gene of MLL1 during decidual process. Results showed that both MLL1 and H3K4me3 decreased in the eutopic endometrium from EM patients compared to that in the normal endometrium. During early pregnancy and the decidual process, MLL1 and H3K4me3 were significantly upregulated in stromal cells. ChIP-seq and ChIP-qPCR found that the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 4I 2 (COX4I2) was directly targeted by MLL1. The dominance of COX4I2-containing enzyme induced the expression of hypoxia-inducible factor-2α (HIF-2α), whose expression in the peri-implantation endometrium is essential for embryo implantation. Further results showed that MLL1 was directly regulated by progesterone (P4) – P4 receptors (PRs). Our study proved that MLL1 was involved in EM-related infertility, which may provide a novel approach to treat the nonreceptive endometrium in EM patients.

Open access

Nathan Appanna, Hylton Gibson, Elena Gangitano, Niall J Dempster, Karen Morris, Sherly George, Anastasia Arvaniti, Laura L Gathercole, Brian G Keevil, Trevor M Penning, Karl-Heinz Storbeck, Jeremy W Tomlinson, and Nikolaos Nikolaou

Steroid hormones, including glucocorticoids and androgens, exert a wide variety of effects in the body across almost all tissues. The steroid A-ring 5β-reductase (AKR1D1) is expressed in human liver and testes, and three splice variants have been identified (AKR1D1-001, AKR1D1-002, AKR1D1-006). Amongst these, AKR1D1-002 is the best described; it modulates steroid hormone availability and catalyses an important step in bile acid biosynthesis. However, specific activity and expression of AKR1D1-001 and AKR1D1-006 are unknown.

Expression of AKR1D1 variants were measured in human liver biopsies and hepatoma cell lines by qPCR. Their three-dimensional (3D) structures were predicted using in silico approaches. AKR1D1 variants were over-expressed in HEK293 cells, and successful overexpression confirmed by qPCR and western blotting. Cells were treated with either cortisol, dexamethasone, prednisolone, testosterone or androstenedione, and steroid hormone clearance was measured by mass spectrometry. Glucocorticoid and androgen receptor activation were determined by luciferase reporter assays.

AKR1D1-002 and AKR1D1-001 are expressed in human liver, and only AKR1D1-006 is expressed in human testes. Following over-expression, AKR1D1-001 and AKR1D1-006 protein levels were lower than AKR1D1-002, but significantly increased following treatment with the proteasomal inhibitor, MG-132. AKR1D1-002 efficiently metabolised glucocorticoids and androgens and decreased receptor activation. AKR1D1-001 and AKR1D1-006 poorly metabolised dexamethasone, but neither protein metabolised cortisol, prednisolone, testosterone or androstenedione.

We have demonstrated the differential expression and role of AKR1D1 variants in steroid hormone clearance and receptor activation in vitro. AKR1D1-002 is the predominant functional protein in steroidogenic and metabolic tissues. In addition, AKR1D1-001 and AKR1D1-006 may have a limited, steroid-specific role in the regulation of dexamethasone action.