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Bryan B Ho and Clemens Bergwitz

Fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) is a phosphotropic hormone that belongs to a subfamily of endocrine FGFs with evolutionarily conserved functions in worms and fruit flies. FAM20C phosphorylates FGF23 post-translationally, targeting it to proteolysis through subtilisin-like proprotein convertase FURIN, resulting in secretion of FGF23 fragments. O-glycosylation of FGF23 through GALNT3 appears to prevent proteolysis, resulting in secretion of biologically active intact FGF23. In the circulation, FGF23 may undergo further processing by plasminogen activators. Crystal structures show that the ectodomain of the cognate FGF23 receptor FGFR1c binds with the ectodomain of the co-receptor alpha-KLOTHO. The KLOTHO-FGFR1c double heterodimer creates a high-affinity binding site for the FGF23 C-terminus. The topology of FGF23 deviates from that of paracrine FGFs, resulting in poor affinity for heparan sulphate, which may explain why FGF23 diffuses freely in the bone matrix to enter the bloodstream following its secretion by cells of osteoblastic lineage. Intact FGF23 signalling by this canonical pathway activates FRS2/RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK1/2. It reduces serum phosphate by inhibiting 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D synthesis, suppressing intestinal phosphate absorption, and by downregulating the transporters NPT2a and NPT2c, suppressing phosphate reabsorption in the proximal tubules. The physiological role of FGF23 fragments, which may be inhibitory, remains unclear. Pharmacological and genetic activation of canonical FGF23 signalling causes hypophosphatemic disorders, while its inhibition results in hyperphosphatemic disorders. Non-canonical FGF23 signalling through binding and activation of FGFR3/FGFR4/calcineurin/NFAT in an alpha-KLOTHO-independent fashion mainly occurs at extremely elevated circulating FGF23 levels and may contribute to mortality due to cardiovascular disease and left ventricular hypertrophy in chronic kidney disease.

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Vishal Musale, R Charlotte Moffett, Bosede Owolabi, J Michael Conlon, Peter R Flatt, and Yasser H A Abdel-Wahab

The antidiabetic effects and mechanisms of action of an analogue of a frog skin host-defence peptide belonging to the caerulein-precursor fragment family, [S4K]CPF-AM1 were investigated in db/db mice with a genetically inherited form of degenerative diabetes-obesity. Twice-daily treatment with the peptide (75 nmol/kg body weight) for 28 days significantly decreased blood glucose (P < 0.01) and HbA1c (P < 0.05) and increased plasma insulin (P < 0.05) concentrations with no effect on body weight, energy intake, body composition or plasma lipid profile. Peptide administration improved insulin sensitivity and intraperitoneal glucose tolerance. Elevated biomarkers of liver and kidney function associated with the db/db phenotype were significantly lowered by [S4K]CPF-AM1 administration. Peptide treatment significantly (P < 0.05) increased pancreatic insulin content and improved the responses of isolated islets to established secretagogues. Elevated expression of genes associated with insulin signalling (Slc2a4, Insr, Irs1, Akt1, Pik3ca, Ppm1b) in the skeletal muscle of db/db mice were significantly downregulated by peptide treatment. Genes associated with insulin secretion (Abcc8, Kcnj11, Slc2a2, Cacn1c, Glp1r, Gipr) were significantly upregulated by treatment with [S4K]CPF-AM1. Studies with BRIN-BD1I clonal β-cells demonstrated that the peptide evoked membrane depolarisation, increased intracellular Ca2+ and cAMP and activated the protein kinase C pathway. The data indicate that the antidiabetic properties of [S4K]CPF-AM1 mice are mediated by direct insulinotropic action and by regulation of transcription of genes involved in both the secretion and action of insulin.

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Kasiphak Kaikaew, Aldo Grefhorst, Jacobie Steenbergen, Sigrid M A Swagemakers, Anke McLuskey, and Jenny A Visser

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a metabolically active organ that exhibits sex-differential features, that is, being generally more abundant and active in females than in males. Although sex steroids, particularly estrogens, have been shown to regulate BAT thermogenic function, the underlying molecular mechanisms contributing to sexual dimorphism in basal BAT activity have not been elucidated. Therefore, we assessed the transcriptome of interscapular BAT of male and female C57BL/6J mice by RNA sequencing and identified 295 genes showing ≥2-fold differential expression (adjusted P < 0.05). In silico functional annotation clustering suggested an enrichment of genes encoding proteins involved in cell–cell contact, interaction, and adhesion. Ovariectomy reduced the expression of these genes in female BAT toward a male pattern whereas orchiectomy had marginal effects on the transcriptional pattern, indicating a prominent role of female gonadal hormones in this sex-differential expression pattern. Progesterone was identified as a possible upstream regulator of the sex-differentially expressed genes. Studying the direct effects of progesterone in vitro in primary adipocytes showed that progesterone significantly altered the transcription of several of the identified genes, possibly via the glucocorticoid receptor. In conclusion, this study reveals a sexually dimorphic transcription profile in murine BAT at general housing conditions and demonstrates a role for progesterone in the regulation of the interscapular BAT transcriptome.

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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.