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Lekha Jain, Tayaza Fadason, William Schierding, Mark H Vickers, Justin M O’Sullivan and Jo K Perry

Growth hormone (GH) is a peptide hormone predominantly produced by the anterior pituitary and is essential for normal growth and metabolism. The GH locus contains five evolutionarily related genes under the control of an upstream locus control region that coordinates tissue-specific expression of these genes. Compromised GH signalling and genetic variation in these genes has been implicated in various disorders including cancer. We hypothesised that regulatory regions within the GH locus coordinate expression of a gene network that extends the impact of the GH locus control region. We used the CoDeS3D algorithm to analyse 529 common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the GH locus. This algorithm identifies colocalised Hi-C and eQTL associations to determine which SNPs are associated with a change in gene expression at loci that physically interact within the nucleus. One hundred and eighty-one common SNPs were identified that interacted with 292 eGenes across 48 different tissues. One hundred and forty-five eGenes were regulated in trans. eGenes were found to be enriched in GH/GHR-related cellular signalling pathways including MAPK, PI3K-AKT-mTOR, ERBB and insulin signalling, suggesting that these pathways may be co-regulated with GH signalling. Enrichment was also observed in the Wnt and Hippo signalling pathways and in pathways associated with hepatocellular, colorectal, breast and non-small cell lung carcinoma. Thirty-three eQTL SNPs identified in our study were found to be of regulatory importance in a genome-wide Survey of Regulatory Elements reporter screen. Our data suggest that the GH locus functions as a complex regulatory region that coordinates expression of numerous genes in cis and trans, many of which may be involved in modulating GH function in normal and disease states.

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R Alhamdan, W Maalouf, B K Campbell, J H Hernandez-Medrano and P Marsters

Natriuretic peptides (NPs) have been reported to have critical roles in follicular development and oocyte maturation in rodents. This study aimed to extend our current understanding of NP-mediated signalling pathways and mechanisms of action in the follicles of a monovulatory species. Ovine granulosa cells (GCs) and theca cells (TCs) were cultured under conditions designed to allow gonadotrophin-stimulated cell differentiation. Gene expression analysis was performed by qualitative (q)PCR for NPs and NPRs (between 16 and 96 h of culture) and VEGF120 and VEGF164 (between 16 and 144 h of culture). A qualitative analysis of the production of NP/NPR family members and NP ligand/receptor associations was carried out utilising a highly sensitive immunological approach known as ‘proximity ligation assay’ (PLA). All NPRs were observed in GCs, while NPRA was absent in TCs. In GCs, gene expression of NPRA, NPRB and NPRC was apparent but only active BNP and CNP and not ANP, were detected. Also in GCs, ANP but not CNP was able to significantly (P < 0.05) reduce oestradiol and increase (P < 0.05) progesterone. Inhibition of VEGF164 by ANP and CNP (P < 0.01) after 48 h of culture preceded up-regulation of VEGF120 by ANP (P < 0.01) after 144 h, but not CNP. Taken together, these findings appear to demonstrate that NP responsiveness in the GC compartment of sheep follicles is multi-facilitated, utilising both autocrine and paracrine stimulation pathways.

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Mark C Turner, Neil R W Martin, Darren J Player, Richard A Ferguson, Patrick Wheeler, Charlotte J Green, Elizabeth C Akam and Mark P Lewis

Hyperinsulinaemia potentially contributes to insulin resistance in metabolic tissues, such as skeletal muscle. The purpose of these experiments was to characterise glucose uptake, insulin signalling and relevant gene expression in primary human skeletal muscle-derived cells (HMDCs), in response to prolonged insulin exposure (PIE) as a model of hyperinsulinaemia-induced insulin resistance. Differentiated HMDCs from healthy human donors were cultured with or without insulin (100 nM) for 3 days followed by an acute insulin stimulation. HMDCs exposed to PIE were characterised by impaired insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, blunted IRS-1 phosphorylation (Tyr612) and Akt (Ser473) phosphorylation in response to an acute insulin stimulation. Glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1), but not GLUT4, mRNA and protein increased following PIE. The mRNA expression of metabolic (PDK4) and inflammatory markers (TNF-α) was reduced by PIE but did not change lipid (SREBP1 and CD36) or mitochondrial (UCP3) markers. These experiments provide further characterisation of the effects of PIE as a model of hyperinsulinaemia-induced insulin resistance in HMDCs.

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Maria K Tsoumpra, Shun Sawatsubashi, Michihiro Imamura, Seiji Fukumoto, Shin’ichi Takeda, Toshio Matsumoto and Yoshitsugu Aoki

The biologically active metabolite of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (VD3), exerts its tissue-specific actions through binding to its intracellular vitamin D receptor (VDR) which functions as a heterodimer with retinoid X receptor (RXR) to recognize vitamin D response elements (VDRE) and activate target genes. Upregulation of VDR in murine skeletal muscle cells occurs concomitantly with transcriptional regulation of key myogenic factors upon VD3 administration, reinforcing the notion that VD3 exerts beneficial effects on muscle. Herein we elucidated the regulatory role of VD3/VDR axis on the expression of dystrobrevin alpha (DTNA), a member of dystrophin-associated protein complex (DAPC). In C2C12 cells, Dtna and VDR gene and protein expression were upregulated by 1–50 nM of VD3 during all stages of myogenic differentiation. In the dystrophic-derived H2K-mdx52 cells, upregulation of DTNA by VD3 occurred upon co-transfection of VDR and RXR expression vectors. Silencing of MyoD1, an E-box binding myogenic transcription factor, did not alter the VD3-mediated Dtna induction, but Vdr silencing abolished this effect. We also demonstrated that VD3 administration enhanced the muscle-specific Dtna promoter activity in presence of VDR/RXR only. Through site-directed mutagenesis and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, we have validated a VDRE site in Dtna promoter in myogenic cells. We have thus proved that the positive regulation of Dtna by VD3 observed during in vitro murine myogenic differentiation is VDR mediated and specific. The current study reveals a novel mechanism of VDR-mediated regulation for Dtna, which may be positively explored in treatments aiming to stabilize the DAPC in musculoskeletal diseases.

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Belen Brie, Ana Ornstein, Maria Cecilia Ramirez, Isabel Lacau-Mengido and Damasia Becu-Villalobos

Many sex differences in liver gene expression originate in the brain, depend on GH secretion and may underlie sex disparities in hepatic disease. Because epigenetic mechanisms may contribute, we studied promoter methylation and microRNA abundance in the liver, associated with expression of sexual dimorphic genes in mice with selective disruption of the dopamine D2 receptor in neurons (neuroDrd2KO), which decreases hypothalamic Ghrh, pituitary GH, and serum IGFI and in neonatally androgenized female mice which have increased pituitary GH content and serum IGFI. We evaluated mRNA levels of the female predominant genes prolactin receptor (Prlr), alcohol dehydrogenase 1 (Adh1), Cyp2a4, and hepatocyte nuclear transcription factor 6 (Hnf6) and the male predominant gene, Cyp7b1. Female predominant genes had higher mRNA levels compared to males, but lower methylation was only detected in the Prlr and Cyp2a4 female promoters. In neuroDrd2KO mice, sexual dimorphism was lost for all genes; the upregulation (feminization) of Prlr and Cyp2a4 in males correlated with decreased methylation of their promoters, and the downregulation (masculinization) of Hnf-6 mRNA in females correlated inversely with its promoter methylation. Neonatal androgenization of females evoked a loss of sexual dimorphism only for the female predominant Hnf6 and Adh1 genes, but no differences in promoter methylation were found. Finally, mmu-miR-155-5p, predicted to target Cyp7b1 expression, was lower in males in association with higher Cyp7b1 mRNA levels compared to females and was not modified in neuroDrd2KO or TP mice. Our results suggest specific regulation of gene sexually dimorphic expression in the liver by methylation or miRNAs.

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Kelly L Short, A Daniel Bird, Bennet K L Seow, Judy Ng, Annie R A McDougall, Megan J Wallace, Stuart B Hooper and Timothy J Cole

Glucocorticoid (GC) signaling via the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is essential for lung maturation in mammals. Previous studies using global or conditional mouse model knockouts of the GR gene have established that GR-mediated signaling in the interstitial mesenchyme of the fetal lung is critical for normal lung development. Screens for downstream GC-targets in conditional mesenchymal GR deficient mouse lung (GRmesKO) identified Versican (Vcan), an important extracellular matrix component and cell proliferation regulator, as a potential GR-regulated target. We show that, of the five major VCAN isoforms, the VCAN-V1 isoform containing the GAGβ domain is the predominant VCAN isoform in the fetal mouse lung distal mesenchyme at both E16.5 and E18.5, whereas the GAGα-specific VCAN-V2 isoform was only localized to the smooth muscle surrounding proximal airways. Both Vcan-V1 mRNA and protein levels were strongly overexpressed in the GRmesKO lung at E18.5. Finally, we investigated the GC regulation of the ECM protease ADAMTS 12 and showed that Adamts 12 mRNA levels were markedly reduced at E18.5 in GRmesKO fetal mouse lung and were strongly induced by both cortisol and betamethasone in cultures of primary rat fetal lung fibroblasts. ADAMTS12 protein immunoreactivity was also strongly increased in the distal lung at E18.5, after dexamethasone treatment in utero. In summary, glucocorticoid signaling via GR represses GAGβ domain-containing VCAN isoforms in distal lung mesenchyme in vivo by repressing Vcan gene expression and, in part, by inducing the ECM protease ADAMTS12, thereby contributing to the control of ECM remodelling and lung cell proliferation prior to birth.

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Takumi Nakamura, Kazuki Harada, Taichi Kamiya, Mai Takizawa, Jim Küppers, Kazuo Nakajima, Michael Gütschow, Tetsuya Kitaguchi, Kunihiro Ohta, Tadafumi Kato and Takashi Tsuboi

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), secreted by gastrointestinal enteroendocrine L cells, induces insulin secretion and is important for glucose homeostasis. GLP-1 secretion is induced by various luminal nutrients, including amino acids. Intracellular Ca2+ and cAMP dynamics play an important role in GLP-1 secretion regulation; however, several aspects of the underlying mechanism of amino acid-induced GLP-1 secretion are not well characterized. We investigated the mechanisms underlying the L-glutamine-induced increase in Ca2+ and cAMP intracellular concentrations ([Ca2+]i and [cAMP]i, respectively) in murine enteroendocrine L cell line GLUTag cells. Application of L-glutamine to cells under low extracellular [Na+] conditions, which inhibited the function of the sodium-coupled L-glutamine transporter, did not induce an increase in [Ca2+]i. Application of G protein-coupled receptor family C group 6 member A and calcium-sensing receptor antagonist showed little effect on [Ca2+]i and [cAMP]i; however, taste receptor type 1 member 3 (TAS1R3) antagonist suppressed the increase in [cAMP]i. To elucidate the function of TAS1R3, which forms a heterodimeric umami receptor with taste receptor type 1 member 1 (TAS1R1), we generated TAS1R1 and TAS1R3 mutant GLUTag cells using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. TAS1R1 mutant GLUTag cells exhibited L-glutamine-induced increase in [cAMP]i, whereas some TAS1R3 mutant GLUTag cells did not exhibit L-glutamine-induced increase in [cAMP]i and GLP-1 secretion. These findings suggest that TAS1R3 is important for L-glutamine-induced increase in [cAMP]i and GLP-1 secretion. Thus, TAS1R3 may be coupled with Gs and related to cAMP regulation.

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Huixia Li, Zhuanmin Zhang, Dongxu Feng, Lin Xu, Fang Li, Jiali Liu, Xinxin Jin, Zhuang Qian, Xiaomin Kang and Hongzhi Sun

Progranulin (PGRN), a multifunctional protein implicated in embryonic development and immune response, was recently introduced as a novel marker of chronic inflammation related with insulin resistance in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, the potential mechanisms of PGRN on insulin signaling pathways are poorly understood. In this study, PGRN mediated the chemotaxis of RAW264.7, impaired insulin action and stimulated production of inflammatory factors in adipocytes, which was accompanied by increased c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation and serine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate-1. PGRN knockdown partially led to an increase in insulin action as well as a decrease in the JNK activation and extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation in cells exposed to tumor-necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Meanwhile, PGRN treatment resulted in an elevation of transcription factor nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) nuclear translocation and acetylation, and increased Il-1b, Il6, Tnf-a expression, whereas NF-κB inhibition reversed PGRN-induced insulin action impairment and inflammatory gene expression. Finally, we showed that sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) expression was downregulated by PGRN treatment, whereas SIRT1 overexpression improved PGRN-induced insulin resistance, NF-κB activation, and inflammatory gene expression. Our results suggest that PGRN regulates adipose tissue inflammation possibly by controlling the gain of proinflammatory transcription in a SIRT1-NF-κB dependent manner in response to inducers such as fatty acids and endoplasmic reticulum stress.

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Chikahito Suda, Junichi Yatabe, Midori Yatabe, Miki Yarita and Atsuhiro Ichihara

Elevated soluble (pro)renin receptor (s(P)RR) concentration in maternal blood is associated with gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. Placenta has abundant expression of (P)RR, and the binding of (P)RR with pyruvate dehydrogenase E1 beta subunit (PDHB) is reported to maintain oxidative metabolism. Thus, we hypothesized that placental hypoxia may increase (P)RR, and the increased (P)RR may preserve PDHB expression. Expression and functional analyses were performed using human placental trophoblast cells, mainly JAR cells. (P)RR co-immunoprecipitated and showed co-immunofluorescence with PDHB mainly in the mitochondria. Hypoxia treatment significantly increased intracellular s(P)RR protein expression, but secreted s(P)RR in the culture medium was decreased by hypoxia. Hypoxia treatment did not alter PDHB expression or activity in the basal condition, but when (P)RR was knocked down by siRNA, PDHB protein and activity were reduced by hypoxia. Acetyl-CoA, the product of PDH activity, was significantly reduced by hypoxia treatment with (P)RR siRNA. S(P)RR is generated from full-length PRR when cleaved by specific proteases. Protease inhibitor experiments suggested furin and site 1 protease as the enzymes generating s(P)RR in JAR cells, and only when treated by site 1 protease inhibitor, PF429242, PDHB protein showed a significant trend to decrease with hypoxia. In JAR cells, hypoxia increased intracellular s(P)RR, and (P)RR preserved the expression and function of PDHB during hypoxia. (P)RR may help maintain oxidative metabolism and efficient energy production during placental ischemia in hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

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Andrea Hanel, Henna-Riikka Malmberg and Carsten Carlberg

The transcription factor vitamin D receptor (VDR) is the exclusive nuclear target of the biologically active form of vitamin D (1,25(OH)2D3). In THP-1 human monocytes we obtained a highly accurate VDR cistrome after 2 and 24 h ligand stimulation comprising more than 11,600 genomic loci, 78% of which were detected exclusively after 24 h. In contrast, a group of 510 persistent VDR sites occurred at all conditions and some 2,100 VDR loci were only transiently occupied. Machine learning and statistical analysis as well as a comparison with the re-analyzed B cell VDR cistrome indicated a subgroup of 339 highly conserved persistent VDR sites that were suited best for describing vitamin D-triggered gene regulatory scenarios. The 1,25(OH)2D3-dependent transcriptome of THP-1 cells comprised 587 genes, 311 of which were primary targets with main functions in the immune system. More than 97% of the latter genes were located within 1,25(OH)2D3-modulated topologically associated domains (TADs). The number of persistent and transient VDR sites was found to be the main discriminator for sorting these TADs into five classes carrying vitamin D target genes involved in distinct biological processes. In conclusion, specific regulation of biological processes by vitamin D depends on differences in time-dependent VDR binding.