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David Aguinaga, Mireia Casanovas, Rafael Rivas-Santisteban, Irene Reyes-Resina, Gemma Navarro, and Rafael Franco

Addiction and eating disorders involve brain reward circuits. Binge eating predisposes to addictive behavior, while the cessation of exposure to drugs of abuse leads to reward activities, including intake of tasty foods. Cocaine use is associated with a decrease in food intake, with reversal after drug use is discontinued. Exciting new findings show that receptors for the ‘hunger’ hormone, ghrelin, directly interact with the sigma-1 receptor (σ1R), which is a target of cocaine. σ1Rs are key players in regulating dopaminergic neurotransmission and ghrelin-mediated actions. This review focuses on the σ1 receptor as a general neuroendocrine regulator by directly interacting with neuronal G-protein-coupled receptors. This review also covers the early mechanisms by which cocaine binding to σ1 blocks the food-seeking behavior triggered by ghrelin. Those findings appear as fundamental to understand common mechanisms in drug addiction and eating disorders.

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Leandro Nieto, Mariana Fuertes, Josefina Rosmino, Sergio Senin, and Eduardo Arzt

Retinoic acid (RA), an active metabolite of Vitamin A, and bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP-4) pathways control the transcription of pro-opiomelanocortin (Pomc), the precursor of ACTH. We describe a novel mechanism by which RA and BMP-4 act together in the context of pituitary corticotroph tumoral cells to regulate Pomc transcription. BMP-4 and RA exert a potentiated inhibition on Pomc gene expression. This potentiation of the inhibitory action on Pomc transcription was blocked by the inhibitory SMADs of the BMP-4 pathway (SMAD6 and SMAD7), a negative regulator of BMP-4 signaling (TOB1) and a blocker of RA pathway (COUP-TFI). AtT-20 corticotrophinoma cells express RA receptors (RARB, RXRA and RXRG) which associate with factors of BMP-4 (SMAD4 and SMAD1) signaling cascade in transcriptional complexes that block Pomc transcription. COUP-TFI and TOB1 disrupt these complexes. Deletions and mutations of the Pomc promoter and a specific DNA-binding assay show that the complexes bind to the RARE site in the Pomc promoter. The enhanced inhibitory interaction between RA and BMP-4 pathways occurs also in another relevant corticotroph gene promoter, the corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor 1 (Crh-r1). The understanding of the molecules that participate in the control of corticotroph gene expression contribute to define more precise targets for the treatment of corticotrophinomas.

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Charit Taneja, Sakshi Gera, Se-Min Kim, Jameel Iqbal, Tony Yuen, and Mone Zaidi

FSH has a primary function in procreation, wherein it induces estrogen production in females and regulates spermatogenesis in males. However, in line with our discoveries over the past decade of non-unitary functions of pituitary hormones, we and others have described hitherto uncharacterized functions of FSH. Through high-affinity receptors, some of which are variants of the ovarian FSH receptor (FSHR), FSH regulates bone mass, adipose tissue function, energy metabolism, and cholesterol production in both sexes. These newly described actions of FSH may indeed be relevant to the pathogenesis of bone loss, dysregulated energy homeostasis, and disordered lipid metabolism that accompany the menopause in females and aging in both genders. We are therefore excited about the possibility of modulating circulating FSH levels toward a therapeutic benefit for a host of age-associated diseases, including osteoporosis, obesity and dyslipidemia, among other future possibilities.

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Sasha R Howard

Delayed puberty represents the clinical presentation of a final common pathway for many different pathological mechanisms. In the majority of patients presenting with significantly delayed puberty, there is a clear family history of delayed or disturbed puberty, and pubertal timing is known to be a trait with strong heritability. Thus, genetic factors clearly play a key role in determining the timing of puberty, and mutations in certain genes are recognised as responsible for delayed or absent puberty in a minority of patients. Through the identification of causal genetic defects such as these we have been able to learn a great deal about the pathogenesis of disrupted puberty and its genetic regulation. Firstly, deficiency in key genes that govern the development of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone system during fetal development may result in a spectrum of conditions ranging from isolated delayed puberty to absent puberty with anosmia. Secondly, a balance of inhibitory and excitatory signals, acting upstream of GnRH secretion, are vital for the correct timing of puberty. These act to repress the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis during mid-childhood and allow it to reactivate at puberty, and alterations in this equilibrium can cause delayed (or precocious) puberty. Thirdly, disturbances of energy metabolism inputs to the kisspeptin–GnRH system may also lead to late onset of puberty associated with changes in body mass.

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Trinidad Raices, María Luisa Varela, Casandra Margarita Monzón, María Florencia Correa Torrado, Romina María Pagotto, Marcos Besio Moreno, Carolina Mondillo, Omar Pedro Pignataro, and Elba Nora Pereyra

Testicular Leydig cells (LC) are modulated by several pathways, one of them being the histaminergic system. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), whose upregulation comprises the primary response to oxidative noxae, has a central homeostatic role and might dysregulate LC functions when induced. In this report, we aimed to determine how hemin, an HO-1 inducer, affects LC proliferative capacity and whether HO-1 effects on LC functions are reversible. It was also evaluated if HO-1 interacts in any way with histamine, affecting its regulatory action over LC. MA-10 and R2C cell lines and immature rat LC were used as models. Firstly, we show that after a 24-h incubation with 25 µmol/L hemin, LC proliferation is reversibly impaired by cell cycle arrest in G2/M phase, with no evidence of apoptosis induction. Even though steroid production is abrogated after a 48-h exposure to 25 µmol/L hemin, steroidogenesis can be restored to control levels in a time-dependent manner if the inducer is removed from the medium. Regarding HO-1 and histamine interaction, it is shown that hemin abrogates histamine biphasic effect on steroidogenesis and proliferation. Working with histamine receptors agonists, we elucidated that HO-1 induction affects the regulation mediated by receptor types 1, 2 and 4. In summary, HO-1 induction arrests LC functions, inhibiting steroid production and cell cycle progression. Despite their reversibility, HO-1 actions might negatively influence critical phases of LC development and differentiation affecting their function as well as other androgen-dependent organs. What’s more, we have described a hitherto unknown interaction between HO-1 induction and histamine effects.

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Eui Hyun Kim, Geon A Kim, Anukul Taweechaipaisankul, Seok Hee Lee, Muhammad Qasim, Curie Ahn, and Byeong Chun Lee

Oxidative stress (OS) is a major problem during in vitro culture of embryos. Numerous studies have shown that melatonin, which is known to have antioxidant properties, prevents the occurrence of OS in embryos. However, the molecular mechanisms by which melatonin prevents OS in embryos are still unclear. The present study suggests a possible involvement of the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2/antioxidant-responsive element (Nrf2/ARE) signaling pathway, which is one of the prominent signals for OS prevention through Nrf2 activation, connecting melatonin, OS prevention and porcine embryonic development. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of melatonin (10−7 M) on porcine embryonic development via the Nrf2/ARE signaling pathway; brusatol (50 nM; Nrf2 specific inhibitor) was used to validate the mechanism. Treatment of porcine embryo with melatonin significantly increased formation rates of blastocysts and their total cell numbers and also upregulated the expression of Nrf2/ARE signaling and apoptosis-related genes (MT2, NRF2, UCHL, HO-1, SOD1 and BCL-2). Furthermore, the expression of proteins (NRF2 and MT2) was also upregulated in the melatonin-treated group. Concomitantly, brusatol significantly inhibited these effects, upregulating the expression of KEAP1 and BAX, including the expression level of KEAP1 protein. These results provide evidences that melatonin prevents OS through Nrf2/ARE signaling pathway in porcine in vitro fertilization -derived embryos.

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Ji Chen, Chao Li, Wenjie Liu, Bin Yan, Xiaoling Hu, and Fengrui Yang

Neuropathic pain represents one of the most common complications associated with diabetes mellitus (DM) that impacts quality of life. Accumulating studies have highlighted the involvement of miRNAs in DM. Thus, the current study aimed to investigate the roles of miR-155 in diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). In vitro DPN models were established using rat Schwann cells (SCs) by treatment with 5.5 mM glucose. Gain- or loss-of-function studies were conducted to determine the effect of miR-155 on Nrf2, cellular function, reactive oxygen species and inflammation. Rat DNP models were established by streptozotocin injection and damage of sciatic nerve. Next, miR-155 antagomir or agomir was employed to investigate the effects associated with miR-155 on motor and sciatic nerve conduction velocity (MNCV, SNCV), angiogenesis and inflammatory response in vivo. Nrf2 was identified to be a target of miR-155 by dual-luciferase reporter gene assay. Silencing of miR-155 or restoration of Nrf2 promoted cell proliferation, inhibited apoptosis and alleviated inflammation in vitro. miR-155 antagomir-induced inhibition increased MNCV and SNCV, strengthened angiogenesis and alleviated inflammation in DPN rats. Additionally, the effects exerted by miR-155 were reversed when Nrf2 was restored both in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, the key findings of our study provide evidence indicating that miR-155 targeted and suppressed Nrf2 in DPN. miR-155 silencing was found to alleviate sciatic nerve injury in DPN, highlighting its potential as a therapeutic target for DPN.

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Caitlyn Nguyen-Ngo, Nanthini Jayabalan, Carlos Salomon, and Martha Lappas

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) imposes serious short- and long-term health problems for mother and baby. An effective therapeutic that can reduce the incidence of GDM and improve long-term maternal and fetal outcomes is a major research priority, crucially important for public health. A lack of knowledge about the underlying pathophysiology of GDM has hampered the development of such therapeutics. What we do know, however, is that maternal insulin resistance, low-grade inflammation and endothelial cell dysfunction are three central features of pregnancies complicated by GDM. Indeed, data generated over the past decade have implicated a number of candidate regulators of insulin resistance, inflammation and endothelial cell dysfunction in placenta, maternal adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. These include nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), sirtuins (SIRTs), 5′ AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3), PI3K/mTOR, inflammasome and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. In this review, the identification of these as key modulators of GDM will be discussed. The biochemical pathways involved in the formation of these may represent potential sites for intervention that may translate to therapeutic interventions to prevent the development of GDM.

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Yefei Pang and Peter Thomas

We have shown progesterone exerts a direct action on vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) to induce relaxation through activation of membrane progesterone receptor alpha (mPRα)-dependent signaling pathways, but information on downstream events is lacking. Progesterone-induced changes in calcium concentrations in human umbilical artery VSMCs through mPRα-dependent signaling pathways and the involvement of Rho/ROCK signaling were investigated. Acute in vitro treatment with progesterone and the selective mPRα agonist 10-ethenyl-19-norprogesterone (Org OD 02-0, 02-0) blocked the rapid prostaglandin F2α-induced calcium increase. This inhibitory progesterone action was prevented by knockdown of mPRα but not by knockdown of the nuclear progesterone receptor, confirming it is mediated through mPRα. The decrease in calcium levels and VSMC relaxation were abolished by treatment with FPL64176 (Ca2+ channel activator), supporting a role for decreased calcium channel activity in this progesterone action. The reduction in calcium was attenuated by pretreatment with pertussis toxin, 8-Bromo-cAMP and forskolin, indicating this progesterone action involves activation of an inhibitory G protein and downregulation of cAMP-dependent signaling. Inhibition of MAPK and Akt signaling with PD98059 and ML-9, respectively, prevented the progesterone-induced calcium concentration decrease and VSMC relaxation. Forskolin decreased progesterone-induced MAPK and Akt phosphorylation which suggests that the cAMP status influences calcium levels indirectly through altering these signaling pathways. Progesterone and 02-0 treatments decreased RhoA activity and ROCK phosphorylation, which suggests that reduced RhoA/ROCK signaling is a component of the mPRα-mediated progesterone actions on VSMCs. The results suggest that progesterone induces VSMC relaxation by reducing cellular calcium levels through mPRα-induced alterations in multiple signaling pathways.

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Guoqing Lei, Linxi Chen, Miao Peng, Bolin Zeng, Qiaoxi Yang, Hening Zhai, and Geyang Xu

GLP-1 is a potent glucose-dependent insulinotropic hormone derived from intestinal L cells. Inflammatory Interleukin-27 (IL-27), a pleiotropic two-chain cytokine, is composed of EBI3 and IL-27 p28 subunits. IL-27 has a protective effect on pancreatic β-cell function. The relationship between IL-27 and GLP-1 is still unexplored. Here we showed interleukin-27-stimulated GLP-1 production via the Stat3-mTOR-dependent mechanism. Interleukin 27 receptor subunit alpha (IL-27 Rα) was detected in ileum and STC-1 cells. Co-localization of EBI3 and GLP-1 was observed not only in mouse ileums but also in human ileums and colons. Third-ventricular infusion of IL-27 increased ileal and plasma GLP-1 in both lean C57BL/6J mice and diet-induced obese and diabetic mice. These changes were associated with a significant increase in Stat3-mTOR activity. Treatment of STC-1 cells with IL-27 contributed to the increments of Stat3-mTOR signaling and GLP-1. Interference of mTOR activity by mTOR siRNA or rapamycin abolished the stimulation of GLP-1 production induced by IL-27 in STC-1 cells. Stat3 siRNA also blocked the stimulus effect of IL-27 on GLP-1. IL-27 increased the interaction of mTOR and Stat3 in STC-1 cells. Our results identify Stat3-mTOR as a critical signaling pathway for the stimulation of GLP-1 induced by IL-27.