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Dimitrios Doultsinos and Ian Mills

Prostate cancer is a high-incidence male cancer, which is dependent on the activity of a nuclear hormone receptor, the androgen receptor (AR). Since the AR is required for both normal prostate gland development and for prostate cancer progression, it is possible that prostate cancer evolves from perturbations in AR-dependent biological processes that sustain specialist glandular functions. The archetypal example of course is the use of prostate specific antigen (PSA), an organ-type specific component of the normal prostate secretome, as a biomarker of prostate cancer. Furthermore, localised prostate cancer is characterised by a low proliferative index and a heterogenous array of somatic mutations aligned to a multifocal disease pattern. We and others have identified a number of biological processes that are AR dependent and represent aberrations in significant glandular processes. Glands are characterised by high rates of metabolic activity including protein synthesis supported by co-dependent processes such as glycosylation, organelle biogenesis and vesicle trafficking. Impairments in anabolic metabolism and in protein folding/processing will inevitably impose proteotoxic and oxidative stress on glandular cells and, in particular, luminal epithelial cells for which secretion is their primary function. As cancer develops there is also significant metabolic dysregulation including impaired negative feedback effects on glycolytic and anabolic activity under conditions of hypoxia and heightened protein synthesis due to dysregulated PI 3-kinase/mTOR activity. In this review we will focus on the components of the AR regulome that support cancer development as well as glandular functions focussing on the unfolded protein response and on regulators of mTOR activity.

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Rebecca Roy, Caitlyn Nguyen-Ngo, and Martha Lappas

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) affects up to 16% of pregnant women and is associated with significant long-term health detriments for the mother and her offspring. Two central features of GDM are low-grade inflammation and maternal peripheral insulin resistance, therefore therapeutics which target these may be most effective at preventing the development of GDM. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate and propionate, are metabolites produced from the fermentation of dietary fibre by intestinal microbiota. SCFAs possess anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity and anti-diabetic properties. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the effect of SCFAs on inflammation and insulin signalling defects in an in vitro model of GDM. Human placenta, visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and s.c. adipose tissue (SAT) were stimulated with either the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF or bacterial product lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The SCFAs butyrate and propionate blocked TNF- and LPS-induced mRNA expression and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in placenta, VAT and SAT. Primary human cells isolated from skeletal muscle were stimulated with TNF to assess the effect of SCFAs on inflammation-induced defects in the insulin signalling pathway. Butyrate and propionate were found to reverse TNF-induced increases in IRS-1 serine phosphorylation and decreases in glucose uptake. Butyrate and propionate exerted these effects by preventing ERK activation. Taken together, these results suggest that the SCFAs may be able to improve insulin sensitivity and prevent inflammation induced by sterile or bacterial inflammation. Future in vivo studies are warranted to investigate the efficacy and safety of SCFAs in preventing insulin resistance and inflammation associated with GDM.

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Hong Zhu, Wei Cao, Peng Zhao, Jieyu Wang, Yuying Qian, and Yun Li

The excessive activation of renin-angiotensin system (RAS) is one of key pathophysiological characteristics in the development of cardiac remodelling. Angiotensin (Ang) II, as a main active peptide in RAS, induces cardiac structural disorders and dysfunction. However, the molecular mechanisms are still not fully disclosed. Present study aimed to determine the role and potential mechanisms of cardiac TIR-domain-containing adapter-inducing interferon-β (TRIF) in Ang-II-mediated cardiac remodelling in mice. In vitro and in vivo studies showed Ang II and downstream aldosterone obviously increased the expression of TRIF, accompanied with cardiac structural abnormalities and functional injuries. Specific blockage of cardiac TRIF effectively decreased Ang-II/aldosterone-induced cardiac inflammation, fibrosis, hypertrophy and dysfunction in mice. Mechanistically, the TRIF triggered the activation of EGF receptor (EGFR) signalling by nuclear factor (NF)-κB transcriptional regulation and downstream EGFR ligands. Taken together, present study supported that cardiac TRIF was a potential therapeutic target for attenuating cardiac pathophysiological remodelling. The TRIF/EGFR axis partially explained the molecular mechanism of Ang-II/aldosterone-induced cardiac inflammation, fibrosis, hypertrophy and dysfunction in mice.

Open access

Miguel Beato, Roni H G Wright, and François Le Dily

Gene regulation by steroid hormones has been at the forefront in elucidating the intricacies of transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes ever since the discovery by Karlson and Clever that the insect steroid hormone ecdysone induces chromatin puffs in giant chromosomes. After the successful cloning of the hormone receptors toward the end of the past century, detailed mechanistic insight emerged in some model systems, in particular the MMTV provirus. With the arrival of next generation DNA sequencing and the omics techniques, we have gained even further insight into the global cellular response to steroid hormones that in the past decades also extended to the function of the 3D genome topology. More recently, advances in high resolution microcopy, single cell genomics and the new vision of liquid-liquid phase transitions in the context of nuclear space bring us closer than ever to unravelling the logic of gene regulation and its complex integration of global cellular signaling networks. Using the function of progesterone and its cellular receptor in breast cancer cells, we will briefly summarize the history and describe the present extent of our knowledge on how regulatory proteins deal with the chromatin structure to gain access to DNA sequences and interpret the genomic instructions that enable cells to respond selectively to external signals by reshaping their gene regulatory networks.

Free access

Francesco J DeMayo and John P Lydon

Progesterone’s ability to maintain pregnancy in eutherian mammals highlighted this steroid as the ‘hormone of pregnancy’. It was the unique ‘pro-gestational’ bioactivity of progesterone that enabled eventual purification of this ovarian steroid to crystalline form by Willard Myron Allen in the early 1930s. While a functional connection between normal progesterone responses (’progestational proliferation’) of the uterus with the maintenance of pregnancy was quickly appreciated, an understanding of progesterone’s involvement in the early stages of pregnancy establishment was comparatively less well understood. With the aforementioned as historical backdrop, this review focuses on a selection of key advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which progesterone, through its nuclear receptor (the progesterone receptor), drives the development of endometrial receptivity, a transient uterine state that allows for embryo implantation and the establishment of pregnancy. Highlighted in this review are the significant contributions of advanced mouse engineering and genome-wide transcriptomic and cistromic analytics which reveal the pivotal molecular mediators and modifiers that are essential to progesterone-dependent endometrial receptivity and decidualization. With a clearer understanding of the molecular landscape that underpins uterine responsiveness to progesterone during the periimplantation period, we predict that common gynecologic morbidities due to abnormal progesterone responsiveness will be more effectively diagnosed and/or treated in the future.

Open access

Simak Ali, Kirsty Balachandran, and Bert O’Malley

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Kathryn B Horwitz and Carol A Sartorius

Progesterone and progesterone receptors (PR) have a storied albeit controversial history in breast cancers. As endocrine therapies for breast cancer progressed through the twentieth century from oophorectomy to antiestrogens, it was recognized in the 1970s that the presence of estrogen receptors (ER) alone could not efficiently predict treatment responses. PR, an estrogen regulated protein, became the first prognostic and predictive marker of response to endocrine therapies. It remains today as the gold standard for predicting the existence of functional, targetable ER in breast malignancies. PRs were subsequently identified as highly structured transcription factors that regulate diverse physiological processes in breast cancer cells. In the early 2000s, the somewhat surprising finding that prolonged use of synthetic progestin-containing menopausal hormone therapies was associated with increased breast cancer incidence raised new questions about the role of PR in ‘tumorigenesis’. Most recently, PR have been linked to expansion of cancer stem cells that are postulated to be the principal cells reactivated in occult or dormant disease. Other studies establish PR as dominant modulators of ER activity. Together, these findings mark PR as bona fide targets for progestin or antiprogestin therapies, yet their diverse actions have confounded that use. Here we summarize the early history of PR in breast cancer; debunk the theory that progesterone causes cancer; discuss recent discoveries that PR regulate cell heterogeneity; attempt to unify theories describing PR as either good or bad actors in tumors; and discuss emerging areas of research that may help explain this enigmatic hormone and receptor.

Free access

Cathrin Brisken and Valentina Scabia

Progesterone is considered as the pregnancy hormone and acts on many different target tissues. Progesterone receptor (PR) signaling is important for normal development and the physiologic function of the breast and impinges on breast carcinogenesis. Both systemically and locally, in the breast epithelium, there are multiple layers of complexity to progesterone action, many of which have been revealed through experiments in mice. The hormone acts via its receptor expressed in a subset of cells, the sensor cells, in the breast epithelium with different signaling outcomes in individual cells eliciting distinct cell-intrinsic and paracrine signaling involving different mediators for different intercellular interactions. PR expression itself is developmentally regulated and the biological outcome of PR signaling depends on the developmental stage of the mammary gland and the endocrine context. During both puberty and adulthood PR activates stem and progenitor cells through Wnt4-driven activation of the myoepithelium with downstream Adamts18-induced changes in extracellualr matrix (ECM) / basal membrane (BM). During estrous cycling and pregnancy, the hormone drives a major cell expansion through Rankl. At all stages, PR signaling is closely tied to estrogen receptor α (ER) signaling. As the PR itself is a target gene of ER, the complex interactions are experimentally difficult to dissect and still poorly understood. Ex vivo models of the human breast and studies on biopsy samples show that major signaling axes are conserved across species. New intraductal xenograft models hold promise to provide a better understanding of PR signaling in the normal breast epithelium and in breast cancer development in the near future.

Open access

H O D Critchley and R R Chodankar

Abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) is a chronic, debilitating and common condition affecting one in four women of reproductive age. Current treatments (conservative, medical and surgical) may be unsuitable, poorly tolerated or may result in loss of fertility. Selective progesterone receptor modulators (SPRMs) influence progesterone-regulated pathways, a hormone critical to female reproductive health and disease; therefore, SPRMs hold great potential in fulfilling an unmet need in managing gynaecological disorders. SPRMs in current clinical use include RU486 (mifepristone), which is licensed for pregnancy interruption, and CDB-2914 (ulipristal acetate), licensed for managing AUB in women with leiomyomas and in a higher dose as an emergency contraceptive. In this article, we explore the clinical journey of SPRMs and the need for further interrogation of this class of drugs with the ultimate goal of improving women’s quality of life.