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Colin R Jefcoate and Jinwoo Lee

Cholesterol is an important regulator of cell signaling, both through direct impacts on cell membranes and through oxy-metabolites that activate specific receptors (steroids, hydroxy-cholesterols, bile acids). Cholesterol moves slowly through and between cell membranes with the assistance of specific binding proteins and transfer processes. The prototype cholesterol regulator is the Steroidogenesis Acute Regulatory (STAR), which moves cholesterol into mitochondria, where steroid synthesis is initiated by cytochrome P450 11A1 in multiple endocrine cell types. CYP27A1 generates hydroxyl cholesterol metabolites that activate LXR nuclear receptors to control cholesterol homeostatic and transport mechanisms. LXR regulation of cholesterol transport and storage as cholesterol ester droplets is shared by both steroid-producing cells and macrophage. This cholesterol signaling which is crucial to brain neuron regulation by astrocytes and microglial macrophage, is mediated by ApoE and is sensitive to disruption by β-amyloid plaques. sm-FISH delivers appreciable insights into signaling in single cells, by resolving single RNA molecules as mRNA and by quantifying pre-mRNA at gene loci. sm-FISH has been applied to problems in physiology, embryo development and cancer biology, where single cell features have critical impacts. sm-FISH identifies novel features of STAR transcription in adrenal and testis cells, including asymmetric expression at individual gene loci, delayed splicing and 1:1 association of mRNA with mitochondria. This may represent a functional unit for the translation-dependent cholesterol transfer directed by STAR, which integrates into mitochondrial fusion dynamics. Similar cholesterol dynamics repeat with different players in the cycling of cholesterol between astrocytes and neurons in the brain, which may be abnormal in neurodegenerative diseases.

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Liping Luo, Wanxiang Jiang, Hui Liu, Jicheng Bu, Ping Tang, Chongyangzi Du, Zhipeng Xu, Hairong Luo, Bilian Liu, Bo Xiao, Zhiguang Zhou, and Feng Liu

The growth factor receptor bound protein GRB10 is an imprinted gene product and a key negative regulator of the insulin, IGF1 and mTORC1 signaling pathways. GRB10 is highly expressed in mouse fetal liver but almost completely silenced in adult mice, suggesting a potential detrimental role of this protein in adult liver function. Here we show that the Grb10 gene could be reactivated in adult mouse liver by acute endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress) such as tunicamycin or a short-term high-fat diet (HFD) challenge, concurrently with increased unfolded protein response (UPR) and hepatosteatosis. Lipogenic gene expression and acute ER stress-induced hepatosteatosis were significantly suppressed in the liver of the liver-specific GRB10 knockout mice, uncovering a key role of Grb10 reactivation in acute ER stress-induced hepatic lipid dysregulation. Mechanically, acute ER stress induces Grb10 reactivation via an ATF4-mediated increase in Grb10 gene transcription. Our study demonstrates for the first time that the silenced Grb10 gene can be reactivated by acute ER stress and its reactivation plays an important role in the early development of hepatic steatosis.

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Luiz Henrique de Castro Assis, Rafael Henrique de Nóbrega, Nuria Esther Gómez-González, Jan Bogerd, and Rüdiger Winfried Schulz

The hormonal regulation of spermatogenesis involves both gonadotropins and steroid hormones. Long-term in vivo exposure of adult zebrafish to estrogen impaired spermatogenesis associated with an androgen insufficiency, possibly induced by inhibiting gonadotropin release. Using this experimental model, we investigated if androgen treatment could enhance spermatogenesis, while maintaining the inhibition of gonadotropin release through continued estrogen exposure. Moreover, we also exposed animals to androgen alone, in order to examine androgen effects in the absence of estrogen-induced gonadotropin inhibition. Estrogen exposure depleted type B spermatogonia, meiotic and postmeiotic germ cells from the adult testis, but promoted the proliferation of type A undifferentiated spermatogonia, which accumulated in the testis. This change in germ cell composition was accompanied by reduced mRNA levels of those growth factors (e.g. insl3 and igf3) expressed by testicular somatic cells and known to stimulate spermatogonial differentiation in zebrafish. Additional androgen (11-ketoandrostenedione, which is converted to 11-ketotestosterone) treatment in vivo reversed most of the effects of estrogen exposure on spermatogenesis while insl3 and igf3 transcript levels remained suppressed. When androgen treatment was given alone, it promoted the production of haploid cells at the expense of spermatogonia, and increased transcript levels of some growth factor and hormone receptor genes, but not those of insl3 or igf3. We conclude that estrogen exposure efficiently inhibits spermatogenesis because it induces androgen insufficiency and suppresses gonadotropin-regulated growth factors known to stimulate germ cell differentiation. Moreover, our results suggest that androgens and the growth factors Insl3 and Igf3 stimulate spermatogenesis via independent pathways.

Free access

Peng Zhang, Sheng Wang, Liang Wang, Bing Chen Shan, Hui Zhang, Fan Yang, Zhi Qiang Zhou, Xiao Wang, Ye Yuan, and You Jia Xu

Postmenopausal osteoporosis is a global health issue. Although a lack of estrogen is considered the major reason for postmenopausal osteoporosis, other factors might also contribute the etiology of the disease. In previous reports, we and others proposed that iron accumulation after menopause accelerates osteoporosis, and here, we genetically modified the expression of an endogenous hormone, hepcidin, to modulate iron status in a mouse model. Our results show that hepcidin levels negatively correlate with bone loss in both knockout and overexpression (with ovariectomy) murine models. In addition, iron overload enhances reactive oxygen species (ROS) activity and attenuates the functions of primary osteoblasts, while iron depletion could reverse this phenomenon through inhibiting the functions of primary osteoclasts. Therefore, our results provide more evidence of the ‘iron accumulation’ hypothesis, which suggests that high iron levels are risk factors for osteoporosis, and the ‘Huang’s hypothesis’ that hepcidin is a potential drug target for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis.

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Jiung-Pang Huang, Sheng-Chieh Hsu, Yaa-Jyuhn James Meir, Po-Shiuan Hsieh, Chih-Chun Chang, Kuan-Hsing Chen, Jan-Kan Chen, and Li-Man Hung

Many studies have reported the causes of obese metabolic syndrome (MS); however, the causes of nonobese MS (NMS) remain unknown. In this study, we demonstrated that inflamed dysfunctional adipose tissue plays a crucial role in cholesterol-induced NMS. Control (C), high cholesterol (HC) and HC with 10% fructose in drinking water (HCF) diets were fed to Sprague–Dawley rats for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, the body weights of the C- and HC-fed rats were comparable, but the weights of the HCF-fed rats were relatively low. Cholesterol caused metabolic problems such as high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia and hypoinsulinemia. The HCF-fed rats exhibited whole-body insulin resistance with low circulating high-density lipoprotein levels. Increases in the tumor necrosis factor α level in the plasma, the number of CD68+ macrophages and the free nuclear factor-κB level in gonadal white adipose tissue (gWAT) resulted in local inflammation, which appeared as inflamed dysfunctional gWAT. Reduced superoxide dismutases (SODs) deteriorate natural antioxidant defense systems and induce reactive oxygen species in gWAT. Dysregulation of plasma levels of catecholamine, adipokines (leptin and adiponectin), hormone-sensitive lipase and perilipin in cholesterol-induced inflamed adipose tissue contributed to increased lipolysis and increased circulating nonesterified fatty acids. Cholesterol activated inflammation, lipolysis and cell death in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Moreover, Chol-3T3-CM reduced the population of M2-type Raw264.7 macrophages, indicating that the macrophage polarization is mediated by cholesterol. Together, our findings indicate that inflamed dysfunctional adipocytes are critical in NMS, supporting the development of anti-inflammatory agents as potential therapeutic drugs for treating NMS.

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Jonathan Pham, Kanaga Arul Nambi Rajan, Ping Li, and Mana M Parast

Placental development is important for proper in utero growth and development of the fetus, as well as maternal well-being during pregnancy. Abnormal differentiation of placental epithelial cells, called trophoblast, is at the root of multiple pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, the maternal hypertensive disorder preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction. The ligand-activated nuclear receptor, PPARγ, and nutrient sensor, Sirtuin-1, both play a role in numerous pathways important to cell survival and differentiation, metabolism and inflammation. However, each has also been identified as a key player in trophoblast differentiation and placental development. This review details these studies, and also describes how various stressors, including hypoxia and inflammation, alter the expression or activity of PPARγ and Sirtuin-1, thereby contributing to placenta-based pregnancy complications.

Open access

Paul de Goede, Jakob Wefers, Eline Constance Brombacher, Patrick Schrauwen, and Andries Kalsbeek

Many physiological processes are regulated with a 24-h periodicity to anticipate the environmental changes of daytime to nighttime and vice versa. These 24-h regulations, commonly termed circadian rhythms, among others control the sleep–wake cycle, locomotor activity and preparation for food availability during the active phase (daytime for humans and nighttime for nocturnal animals). Disturbing circadian rhythms at the organ or whole-body level by social jetlag or shift work, increases the risk to develop chronic metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus. The molecular basis of this risk is a topic of increasing interest. Mitochondria are essential organelles that produce the majority of energy in eukaryotes by converting lipids and carbohydrates into ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. To adapt to the ever-changing environment, mitochondria are highly dynamic in form and function and a loss of this flexibility is linked to metabolic diseases. Interestingly, recent studies have indicated that changes in mitochondrial morphology (i.e., fusion and fission) as well as generation of new mitochondria are dependent on a viable circadian clock. In addition, fission and fusion processes display diurnal changes that are aligned to the light/darkness cycle. Besides morphological changes, mitochondrial respiration also displays diurnal changes. Disturbing the molecular clock in animal models leads to abrogated mitochondrial rhythmicity and altered respiration. Moreover, mitochondrial-dependent production of reactive oxygen species, which plays a role in cellular signaling, has also been linked to the circadian clock. In this review, we will summarize recent advances in the study of circadian rhythms of mitochondria and how this is linked to the molecular circadian clock.

Open access

Zhengjie Yan, Youjin Dai, Heling Fu, Yuan Zheng, Dan Bao, Yuan Yin, Qin Chen, Xiaowei Nie, Qingting Hao, Daorong Hou, and Yugui Cui

This study was designed to investigate the protective effect of curcumin against d-galactose (d-gal)-induced premature ovarian failure (POF) in mice. A mouse POF model was induced by subcutaneous injection of d-gal (200 mg/kg/day) daily for 42 days. Mice in the curcumin group received both d-gal treatment and intraperitoneal injection of curcumin (100 mg/kg/day) for 42 days. Ovarian function, oxidative stress and apoptosis were evaluated. The P, E2 and SOD levels were higher, and the FSH, LH and MDA levels were significantly lower in the curcumin group than those in the d-gal group. The proportion of primordial follicles was also significantly higher in the curcumin group than that in the d-gal group. In addition, curcumin treatment after d-gal administration resulted in significantly lower Sod2, Cat, 8-OhdG, 4-HNE, NTY and senescence-associated protein P16 expression levels, higher Amh expression levels and less apoptosis in granulosa cells than was observed in the d-gal group. Moreover, the p-Akt, Nrf2 and HO-1 protein expression levels were significantly higher and the apoptosis-related cleaved caspase-3 and -9 protein expression levels were markedly lower in the curcumin group than in the d-gal group. In conclusion, curcumin effectively inhibited d-gal-induced oxidative stress, apoptosis and ovarian injury via a mechanism involving the Nrf2/HO-1 and PI3K/Akt signaling pathways, suggesting that curcumin is a potential protective agent against POF.

Open access

L B James-Allan, G S Whitley, K Leslie, A E Wallace, and J E Cartwright

Successful implantation and placentation are dependent on the interaction between decidual stromal cells (DSC) and extravillous trophoblast (EVT) cells. The extent of trophoblast invasion relies on communication between the placenta and maternal decidua. The cyclical process of decidualisation induces a transformation of endometrial fibroblasts to secretory DSC; these secreted products have many functions including the control of trophoblast invasion. Inadequate trophoblast invasion and remodelling of the uterine vessels (the spiral arteries) are associated with pregnancy disorders such as pre-eclampsia. Uterine artery Doppler resistance index (RI) in the first trimester of pregnancy can be used as a proxy measure of remodelling. DSC were isolated from pregnancies with normal (normal RI) or impaired (high RI) spiral artery remodelling. Following isolation, DSC were re-decidualised using cAMP and MPA and secretion of the decidualisation markers IGFBP-1 and prolactin assessed. We examined the impact of DSC-secreted factors on trophoblast cell function, using the EVT cell line SGHPL-4. We demonstrated that DSC exposed to decidual factors were able to re-decidualise in vitro and that the chemoattraction of trophoblasts by DSC is impaired in pregnancies with high RI. This study provides new insights into the role that DSC play in regulating EVT functions during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is the first study to demonstrate that DSC from pregnancies with impaired vascular remodelling in the first trimester secrete factors that inhibit the directional movement of trophoblast cells. This finding may be important in understanding aberrant trophoblast invasion in pregnancies where vascular remodelling is impaired.

Free access

Yeon Jean Cho, Seung Hyun Lee, Jung Woo Park, Myoungseok Han, Mi Jin Park, and Sang Jun Han

Endometriosis is defined as the presence of endometrial tissue outside the uterine cavity. It affects approximately 5–10% of women of reproductive age. Endometriosis is associated with dysmenorrhea, dyspareunia and, often, severe pelvic pain. In addition to pain, women with endometriosis often experience infertility. Defining the molecular etiology of endometriosis is a significant challenge for improving the quality of women’s lives. Unfortunately, the pathophysiology of endometriosis is not well understood. Here, we summarize the potential causative factors of endometriosis in the following three categories: (1) dysregulation of immune cells in the peritoneal fluid and endometriotic lesions; (2) alteration of apoptotic signaling in retrograde menstrual tissue and cytotoxic T cells involved in endometriosis progression and (3) dysregulation of oxidative stress. Determining the molecular etiology of these dysregulated cellular signaling pathways should provide crucial clues for understanding initiation and progression of endometriosis. Moreover, improved understanding should suggest new molecular therapeutic targets that could improve the specificity of endometriosis treatments and reduce the side effects associated with current approaches.