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Elisa Maseroli, Ilaria Cellai, Sandra Filippi, Paolo Comeglio, Sarah Cipriani, Giulia Rastrelli, Martina Rosi, Flavia Sorbi, Massimiliano Fambrini, Felice Petraglia, Roberta Amoriello, Clara Ballerini, Letizia Lombardelli, Marie-Pierre Piccinni, Erica Sarchielli, Giulia Guarnieri, Annamaria Morelli, Mario Maggi, and Linda Vignozzi

Chronic inflammation is involved in the genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) and beneficial effects of androgens in the vagina have been described. We investigated the potential involvement of human vagina smooth muscle cells (hvSMCs) in the inflammatory response and the immunomodulatory effect of androgen receptor (AR) agonist dihydrotestosterone (DHT). HvSMCs isolated from menopausal women were evaluated for sex steroids receptors and toll-like receptors mRNA expression, and left untreated or treated in vitro with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or IFNγ, in the presence or absence of DHT. We evaluated mRNA expression (by RT-PCR) and secretion in cell culture supernatants (by a bead-based immunoassay) of pro-inflammatory markers. Nuclear translocation of NF-κB (by immunofluorescence) and cell surface HLA-DR expression (by flow cytometry) were also evaluated. Similar experiments were repeated in rat vSMCs (rvSMCs). In hvSMCs and rvSMCs, AR was highly expressed. DHT pre-treatment inhibited LPS-induced mRNA expression of several pro-inflammatory mediators (i.e. COX2, IL-6, IL-12A and IFNγ), effect significantly blunted by AR antagonist bicalutamide. DHT significantly counteracted the secretion of IL-1RA, IL-2, IL-5, IL-15, FGF, VEGF and TNFα. LPS-induced NF-κB nuclear translocation was significantly inhibited by DHT, an effect counteracted by bicalutamide. DHT pre-treatment significantly decreased IFNγ-induced expression of HLA-DR, mRNA expression of iNOS, COX2 and MCP1, and secretion of IL-1, IL-2, IL-5, IL-6, MCP1 and GCSF. Similar effects were observed in rvSMCs. The activation of AR suppresses the inflammatory response in hvSMCs, reducing their potential to be involved in the initiation and maintaining of inflammation, thus representing a therapeutic strategy in conditions, such as the GSM.

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Ting Yan, Wangwang Qiu, Jianlu Song, You-ben 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.

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Claire V Harper, Anne V McNamara, David G Spiller, Jayne C Charnock, Michael RH White, and Julian RE 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 26h. 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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Excel Rio S Maylem, Leon J. Spicer, Isadora Batalha, and Luis F Schutz

Asprosin is a novel fasting-induced protein encoded by fibrillin-1 (FBN1) gene, produced when FBN1 is cleaved by the enzyme furin, and is associated with insulin resistance and polycystic ovarian syndrome in humans. To characterize mRNA abundance of FBN1, furin, and the presumed asprosin receptor, olfactory receptor family 4 subfamily M member 1 (OR4M1) in granulosa (GC) and theca cells (TC), and identify hormones regulating FBN1 mRNA expression, GC and TC from small (1-5 mm; SM) and large (>8 mm; LG) follicles were collected from ovaries of heifers obtained at an abattoir and used for real-time PCR gene expression analysis or in vitro evaluation of hormone regulation and asprosin effects. SMTC had 151-fold greater (P < 0.05) FBN1 mRNA abundance than SMGC, and LGTC had 50-fold greater FBN1 mRNA than LGGC. In contrast, OR4M1 mRNA was 81-fold greater in SMGC than LGGC and did not differ from SMTC, but LGTC had 9-fold greater OR4M1 mRNA than LGGC. Furin mRNA was 2.6-fold greater in SMTC than SMGC, but did not differ among follicular sizes. In cultured TC, leptin, insulin, LH, IGF1 and steroids did not affect FBN1 mRNA, but TGFβ1 increased (P < 0.05) FBN1 mRNA by 2.2-fold; EGF and FGFs increased FBN1 mRNA by 1.3- to 1.5-fold. Asprosin enhanced LH-induced TC androstenedione production, reduced IGF1-induced TC proliferation, and had no effect on progesterone production. Developmental regulation of FBN1, furin and OR4M1 along with direct effects of asprosin on TC suggests that asprosin may be a novel regulator of ovarian follicular function.

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Laurent Beck and Sarah Beck-Cormier

The critical role of phosphate (Pi) in countless biological processes requires the ability to control its concentration both intracellularly and extracellularly. At the body level, this concentration is finely regulated by numerous hormones, primarily parathyroid hormone (PTH) and fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23). While this control of the body’s Pi homeostasis is now well documented, knowledge of the mechanisms that allow the cell and the body to detect extracellular Pi variations is much less known. These systems are well described in bacteria, yeasts and plants, but as will be discussed in this review, knowledge obtained from these organisms is not entirely relevant to the requirements of Pi biology in mammals. In this review, we present the latest findings on extracellular Pi sensing in mammals, and describe the mammalian Pi sensors identified to date, such as SLC20A1 (PIT1)/SLC20A2 (PIT2) heterodimers and the calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR). While there are many questions remaining to be resolved, a clarification of the Pi sensing mechanisms in mammals is critical to understanding the deregulation of Pi balance in certain life-threatening disease states, such as end-stage renal disease and associated vascular calcifications, and to proposing relevant therapeutic approaches.

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G Rosales-Soto, A Diaz-Vegas, M Casas, A Contreras-Ferrat, and E Jaimovich

Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a pleiotropic peptide hormone that is considered a myokine playing a role in a variety of endocrine functions, including regulation of glucose transport and lipid metabolism. Although FGF21 has been associated with glucose metabolism in skeletal muscle cells, its cellular mechanism in adult skeletal muscle fibers glucose uptake is poorly understood. In the present study, we found that FGF21 induced a dose−response effect, increasing glucose uptake in skeletal muscle fibers from the flexor digitorum brevis muscle of mice, evaluated using the fluorescent glucose analog 2-NBDG (300 µM) in single living fibers. This effect was prevented by the use of either cytochalasin B (5 µM) or indinavir (100 µM), both antagonists of GLUT4 activity. The use of PI3K inhibitors such as LY294002 (50 µM) completely prevented the FGF21-dependent glucose uptake. In fibers electroporated with the construct encoding GLUT4myc-eGFP chimera and stimulated with FGF21 (100 ng/mL), a strong sarcolemmal GLUT4 label was detected. This effect promoted by FGF21 was demonstrated to be dependent on atypical PKC-ζ, by using selective PKC inhibitors. FGF21 at low concentrations potentiated the effect of insulin on glucose uptake but at high concentrations, completely inhibited the uptake in the presence of insulin. These results suggest that FGF21 regulates glucose uptake by a mechanism mediated by GLUT4 and dependent on atypical PKC-ζ in skeletal muscle.

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Zifeng Zhao, Lei Yin, Feihua Wu, and Xin Tong

Discovered as a b-ZIP transcription repressor 30 years ago, E4 promoter-binding protein 4 (E4BP4) has been shown to play critical roles in immunity, circadian rhythms, and cancer progression. Recent research has highlighted E4BP4 as a novel regulator of metabolisms in various tissues. In this review, we focus on the function and mechanisms of hepatic E4BP4 in regulating lipid and glucose homeostasis, bile metabolism, as well as xenobiotic metabolism. Finally, E4BP4-specific targets will be discussed for the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders.

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David W Scoville, Artiom Gruzdev, and Anton M Jetten

Recent advances in high throughput RNA sequencing have revealed that, in addition to messenger RNAs (mRNAs), long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) play an important role in the regulation of many cell functions and of organ development. While a number of lncRNAs have been identified in pancreatic islets, their function remains largely undetermined. Here, we identify a novel long ncRNA regulated by the transcription factor GLIS3, which we refer to as GLIS3 regulated 1 (G3R1). This lncRNA was identified for its significant loss of expression in GLIS3 knockout mouse pancreatic islets. G3R1 appears to be specifically expressed in mouse pancreatic β-cells and in a β-cell line (βTC-6). ChIP-seq analysis indicated that GLIS3 and other islet-enriched transcription factors bind near the G3R1 gene, suggesting they directly regulate G3R1 transcription. Similarly, an apparent human homolog of G3R1 displays a similar expression pattern, with additional expression seen in human brain. In order to determine the function of G3R1 in mouse pancreatic β-cells, we utilized CRISPR to develop a knockout mouse where ~80% of G3R1 sequence is deleted. Phenotypic analysis of these mice did not reveal any impairment in β-cell function or glucose regulation, indicating the complexity underlying the study of lncRNA function.

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Bo Li, Yue Zhou, Jing Chen, Tingting Wang, Zhijuan Li, Yili Fu, Aixia Zhai, and Changlong Bi

Diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) is a chronic and non-healing complication of diabetes that leads to high hospital costs and, in extreme cases, to amputation. Recent studies have reported that long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are linked to various diabetes-related symptoms. Thus, we aim to explore the role of lncRNA H19 in the wound healing process following DFU. Fibroblasts were isolated from the ulcer margin tissues of DFU patients, with the expression of lncRNA H19, connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) or serum response factor (SRF) altered by lentivirus infection. Next, rat models of DFU induced by high glucose and lipid diet were established, which was also infected with the corresponding lentivirus. The interaction among lncRNA H19, SRF and CTGF was determined. Afterward, cell proliferation and apoptosis, angiogenesis, ECM remodeling and wound healing in DFU tissues were evaluated to explore the effects of lncRNA H19/SRF/CTGF and MAPK signaling pathway on DFU. CTGF was poorly expressed in ulcer tissues from DFU rats and patients. CTGF overexpression was shown to activate the MAPK signaling pathway to promote cell proliferation, ECM remodeling, angiogenesis and wound healing while inhibiting cell apoptosis. lncRNA H19 was validated to elevate CTGF expression by recruiting SRF to the promoter region of CTGF, thus accelerating cell proliferation, ECM remodeling and wound healing while repressing cell apoptosis. Furthermore, MAPK signaling pathway activation is confirmed to be the underlying mechanism behind lncRNA H19/CTGF/SRF-induced results. Thus, lncRNA H19 accelerated wound healing in DFU through elevation of CTGF and activation of the MAPK signaling pathway.

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Yuanyuan Huang, Hanlin Zhang, Meng Dong, Lei Zhang, Jun Lin, Rongcai Ye, Huiqiao Zhou, Xiaomeng Liu, and Wanzhu Jin

White adipose tissue (WAT) browning may have beneficial effects for treating metabolic syndrome. miRNA are important regulators of the differentiation, development, and function of brown and beige adipocytes. Here, we found that the cold-inducible miRNA17-92 cluster is enriched in brown adipose tissue (BAT) compared with WAT. Overexpression of the miR17-92 cluster in C3H10T1/2 cells, a mouse mesenchymal stem cell line, enhanced the thermogenic capacity of adipocytes. Furthermore, we observed a significant reduction in adiposity in adipose tissue-specific miR17-92 cluster transgenic (TG) mice. This finding is partly explained by dramatic increases in white fat browning and energy expenditure. Interestingly, the miR17-92 cluster stimulated WAT browning without altering BAT activity in mice. In addition, when we removed the intrascapular BAT (iBAT), the TG mice could maintain their body temperature well under cold exposure. At the molecular level, we found that the miR17-92 cluster targets Rb1, a beige cell repressor in WAT. The present study reveals a critical role for the miR17-92 cluster in regulating WAT browning. These results may be helpful for better understanding the function of beige fat, which could compensate for the lack of BAT in humans, and may open new avenues for combatting metabolic syndrome.