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Márcia Faria, Daniela Félix, Rita Domingues, Maria João Bugalho, Paulo Matos and Ana Luísa Silva

Thyroid cancer (TC) is the most common endocrine malignancy. The sodium–iodide symporter (NIS), responsible for active transport of iodide into thyroid cells, allows the use of radioactive iodine (RAI) as the systemic treatment of choice for TC metastatic disease. Still, patients with advanced forms of TC often lose the ability to respond to RAI therapy, which results in worse survival rates. We have shown that the overexpression of RAC1b, a tumor-related RAC1 splice variant, is associated with less favorable clinical outcomes in differentiated TCs derived from the follicular epithelial (DTCs). RAC1b overexpression is also significantly associated with the presence of MAPK-activating BRAFV600E mutation, which has been previously implicated in the loss of NIS expression. Here, we show that increased RAC1b levels are associated with NIS downregulation in DTCs and demonstrate that ectopic overexpression of RAC1b in non-transformed thyroid cells is sufficient to decrease TSH-induced NIS expression, antagonizing the positive effect of the canonically spliced RAC1 GTPase. Moreover, we clearly document for the first time in thyroid cells that both NIS expression and iodide uptake are hampered by RAC1 inhibition, highlighting the role of RAC1 in promoting TSH-induced NIS expression. Our findings support a role for RAC1 and RAC1b signaling in the regulation of NIS expression in thyroid cells and suggest that RAC1b in cooperation with other cancer-associated signaling cues may be implicated in the response of DTCs to RAI therapy.

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Kimberly H Cox and Joseph S Takahashi

The mammalian circadian clock has evolved as an adaptation to the 24-h light/darkness cycle on earth. Maintaining cellular activities in synchrony with the activities of the organism (such as eating and sleeping) helps different tissue and organ systems coordinate and optimize their performance. The full extent of the mechanisms by which cells maintain the clock are still under investigation, but involve a core set of clock genes that regulate large networks of gene transcription both by direct transcriptional activation/repression as well as the recruitment of proteins that modify chromatin states more broadly.

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Shalinee Dhayal, Francesco P Zummo, Matthew W Anderson, Patricia Thomas, Hannah J Welters, Catherine Arden and Noel G Morgan

Long-chain saturated fatty acids are lipotoxic to pancreatic β-cells, whereas most unsaturates are better tolerated and some may even be cytoprotective. Fatty acids alter autophagy in β-cells and there is increasing evidence that such alterations can impact directly on the regulation of viability. Accordingly, we have compared the effects of palmitate (C16:0) and palmitoleate (C16:1) on autophagy in cultured β-cells and human islets. Treatment of BRIN-BD11 β-cells with palmitate led to enhanced autophagic activity, as judged by cleavage of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3-I (LC3-I) and this correlated with a marked loss of cell viability in the cells. In addition, transfection of these cells with an mCherry-YFP-LC3 reporter construct revealed the accumulation of autophagosomes in palmitate-treated cells, indicating an impairment of autophagosome-lysosome fusion. This was also seen upon addition of the vacuolar ATPase inhibitor, bafilomycin A1. Exposure of BRIN-BD11 cells to palmitoleate (C16:1) did not lead directly to changes in autophagic activity or flux, but it antagonised the actions of palmitate. In parallel, palmitoleate also improved the viability of palmitate-treated BRIN-BD11 cells. Equivalent responses were observed in INS-1E cells and in isolated human islets. Taken together, these data suggest that palmitate may cause an impairment of autophagosome-lysosome fusion. These effects were not reproduced by palmitoleate which, instead, antagonised the responses mediated by palmitate suggesting that attenuation of β-cell stress may contribute to the improvement in cell viability caused by the mono-unsaturated fatty acid.

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Jiayu Jin, Xinhong Wang, Xiuling Zhi and Dan Meng

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), the main complication of diabetes mellitus (DM), accounts for a high percentage of mortality in diabetic patients. Endothelial dysfunction is a major causative event in the pathogenesis of diabetes-related vascular disease and the earliest symptom of vascular injury. Epigenetic modification plays a key role in the initiation, maintenance, and progression of both endothelial dysfunction and diabetes. Epigenetic alterations respond to the environment and mediate the ‘legacy effect’ of uncontrolled hyperglycaemia early in the disease despite thorough glycaemic control in a phenomenon called metabolic memory. Therefore, an understanding of the integrated system of different epigenetic mechanisms in DM and its vascular complications is urgently needed. This review summarizes aberrant epigenetic regulation under diabetic conditions, including histone modifications, DNA methylation, and non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). Understanding the connections between these processes and DM may reveal a novel potential therapeutic target for diabetic vascular complications.

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Yun-Qing Zhu, Yun Hu, Ke He, Na Li, Peng Jiang, Yu-Qin Pan, Hong Zhou and Xiao-Ming Mao

The follicles are the minimal functional unit of the thyroid; the morphology and the function of each follicle can vary significantly. However, the reasons for the apparent follicular heterogeneity are poorly understood. Some tissue-resident regulatory T cells (Tregs) have a special phenotype that expresses unique molecules related to local tissue and regulates the tissue functions. The aim of this study was to identify the phenotype of thyroid Tregs and the roles of thyroid Tregs in thyroid physiological regulation. Thyroid tissue and peripheral blood samples were obtained from patients with benign thyroid nodules. Microarray-based gene expression, flow cytometry, immunofluorescence microscopy, and functional analysis of thyroid Tregs were performed. Here, we demonstrated that human thyroid Tregs expressed high level of thyroglobulin (Tg), both gene and protein. The immunofluorescence microscopy of thyroid section showed that the FOXP3+Tg+ cells concentrated in some of the thyroid follicles, at the side of the thyroid follicle. The peripheral blood Tregs expressed minimal levels of Tg, and low levels of Tg could effectively induce peripheral blood Tregs to express Tg, which was independent of thyrotropin simulation. Furthermore, the Tg secreted freely from thyroid Tregs that negatively regulated some thyroid-related genes expression. Our results revealed that the thyroid Tregs was a distinct population of Tregs, which expressed high level of Tg. The thyroid Tregs regulate thyroid function by Tg that is paracrine from the cells.

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Giulia Cantini, Martina Trabucco, Alessandra Di Franco, Edoardo Mannucci and Michaela Luconi

Glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RAs), which are currently used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, have recently been proposed as anti-obesity drugs, due to their relevant effects on weight loss. Furthermore, dual agonists for both GLP-1R and glucagon receptor (GCGR) are under investigation for their promising action on adiposity, although underlying mechanisms still need to be clarified. We have recently demonstrated that GLP-1 and liraglutide interfere with the proliferation and differentiation of human adipose precursors, supporting the hypothesis of a peripheral action of GLP-1RA on weight. Here, we investigated glucagon activity in an in vitro model of primary human adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs). Glucagon significantly inhibited ASC proliferation in a dose- and time-dependent manner, as evaluated by cell count and thymidine incorporation. When added during in vitro-induced adipogenesis, glucagon significantly reduced adipocyte differentiation, as demonstrated by the evaluation of intracellular fat content and quantitative expression of early and mature adipocyte markers (PPARγ and FABP4, HSL). Notably, the inhibitory effect of glucagon on cell proliferation and adipogenesis was reversed by specific GLP-1R (exendin-9) and GCGR (des-His1-Glu9-glucagon(1–29)) antagonists. The presence of both receptors was demonstrated by Western blot, immunofluorescence and cytofluorimetric analysis of ASCs. In conclusion, we demonstrated a direct inhibitory action of glucagon on the proliferation and differentiation of human adipose precursors, which seems to involve both GLP-1R and GCGR. These findings suggest that the adipose stem compartment is a novel target of glucagon, possibly contributing to the weight loss obtained in vivo with dual GLP-1R/glucagon agonists.

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O.R. Vaughan, T.L. Powell and T. Jansson

Excess maternal glucocorticoids reduce placental amino acid transport and fetal growth, but whether these effects are mediated directly on the syncytiotrophoblast remains unknown. We hypothesised that glucocorticoids inhibit mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and insulin-stimulated System A amino acid transport activity in primary human trophoblast (PHT) cells. Syncytialised PHTs, isolated from term placentas (n = 15), were treated with either cortisol (1 μM) or dexamethasone (1 μM), ± insulin (1 nM) for 24 h. Compared to vehicle, dexamethasone increased mRNA expression, but not protein abundance of the mTOR suppressor, regulated in development and DNA damage response 1 (REDD1). Dexamethasone enhanced insulin receptor abundance, activated mTOR complex 1 and 2 signaling and stimulated System A activity, measured by Na+-dependent 14C-methylaminoisobutyric acid uptake. Cortisol also activated mTORC1 without significantly altering insulin receptor or mTORC2 read-outs or System A activity. Both glucocorticoids downregulated expression of the glucocorticoid receptor and the System A transporter genes SLC38A1, SLC38A2 and SLC38A4, without altering SNAT1 or SNAT4 protein abundance. Neither cortisol nor dexamethasone affected System L amino acid transport. Insulin further enhanced mTOR and System A activity, irrespective of glucocorticoid treatment and despite downregulating its own receptor. Contrary to our hypothesis, glucocorticoids do not inhibit mTOR signaling or cause insulin resistance in cultured PHT cells. We speculate that glucocorticoids stimulate System A activity in PHT cells by activating mTOR signaling, which regulates amino acid transporters post-translationally. We conclude that downregulation of placental nutrient transport in vivo following excess maternal glucocorticoids is not mediated by a direct effect on the placenta.

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Ilaria Cimmino, Francesco Oriente, Vittoria D’Esposito, Domenico Liguoro, Pasquale Liguoro, Maria Rosaria Ambrosio, Serena Cabaro, Francesco D’Andrea, Francesco Beguinot, Pietro Formisano and Rossella Valentino

The dramatic rise in obesity and metabolic syndrome can be related, at least in part, to environmental chemical factors such as Bisphenol-A (BPA). In this study, we aimed to understand the effects of low-dose Bisphenol-A on the human mature adipocytes and stromal vascular fraction (SVF) cells, obtained from subcutaneous mammary adipose tissue of overweight female patients, undergoing surgical mammary reduction. 24 and/or 48-h exposure to BPA 0.1 nM elicited significant increase of the inflammatory molecules interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-8 (IL-8), monocyte chemo-attractant protein 1α (MCP1α) and induced G protein-coupled estrogen receptor 30 (GPR30) levels more than two-fold both in mature adipocytes and SVF cells. These effects were similar to that obtained in the presence of GPR30-specific agonist G1 (100 nM) and were reverted by G15 (1 µM), a GPR30-selective antagonist. As a result of BPA-GPR30 signaling activation, fatty acid synthase (FAS) and leptin mRNA levels were significantly higher upon BPA exposure (P < 0.05) in mature adipocytes, with an opposite effect on adiponectin (ADIPOQ). In addition, an increase in SVF cell proliferation and ERK1/2 phosphorylation, was observed, compared to untreated cells. G15 reverted all of these effects. Interestingly, the action of BPA on SVF cell growth was mimicked by IL-8 treatment and was reverted by incubation with anti-IL8 antibodies. All these data suggest that BPA at 0.1 nM, a ten times lower concentration than environmental exposure, increases the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines via GPR30 both in mature mammary adipocytes and in SVF cells with a possible involvement of IL-8.

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Xiaoxia Che, Fangfang Jian, Chen Chen, Chang Liu, Gedan Liu and Weiwei Feng

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder among reproductive-age women. Women with PCOS have a 2.7-fold increased risk for developing endometrial cancer (EC). The study was performed to investigate the potential stimulatory effects of serum exosomes isolated from patients with PCOS on EC cell lines and to explore the underlying mechanism. EC cell lines exposed to exosomes derived from PCOS patients serum exhibited a phenotype of enhanced migration and invasion. Next, sequence-based analysis of exosomal miRNA was conducted to screen the differentially expressed miRNAs in serum exosomes from PCOS patients and normal controls. The levels of 55 mature miRNAs significantly differed in serum exosomes from PCOS patients compared with normal controls. Real time PCR was used to verify the expression of 8 of these miRNAs, among which miR-27a-5p was the most significantly elevated in PCOS patients serum exosomes. The role of miR-27a-5p in EC migration and invasion was further investigated via transfection with miR-27a-5p mimics or inhibitor in Ishikawa and HEC-1A EC cell lines. In addition, the SMAD4 gene was identified as the target of miR-27a-5p by several target prediction databases and validated by a luciferase assay. SMAD4 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels were decreased in EC cells transfected with the miR-27a-5p mimics but increased when transfected with the miR-27a-5p inhibitor. Furthermore, the results of in vitro experiments confirmed that miR-27a-5p prohibited migration and invasion via SMAD4 downregulation. Thus, serum exosomal miR-27a-5p may play a role in EC development in PCOS patients.

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Suzuka Onishi and Kohsuke Kataoka

Insulin plays a central role in glucose homeostasis and is produced exclusively by pancreatic islet β-cells. Insulin gene transcription is regulated by a set of β-cell-enriched transcription factors that bind to cis-regulatory elements within the promoter region, and regulation of the insulin gene promoter is closely linked to β-cell functionality. PIASy, a member of the PIAS family of SUMO E3 ligases, is thought to affect insulin gene transcription, but its mechanism of action is not fully understood. Here, we demonstrate that PIASy interacts with MafA and represses insulin gene promoter activity. MafA is a β-cell-restricted basic leucine-zipper transcriptional activator that binds to the C1 element of the insulin gene promoter. In line with previous studies showing the transactivator domain of MafA is SUMOylated, PIASy enhanced the SUMOylation of MafA. However, a SUMOylation-deficient mutant of MafA was still repressed by PIASy, indicating that this modification is dispensable for repression. Using a series of MafA and PIASy mutants, we found that the basic domain of MafA and the amino-terminal region of PIASy containing the SAP domain are necessary for their interaction. In addition, SUMO-interacting motif 1 (SIM1) at the carboxyl-terminal region of PIASy was required to repress the synergistic transactivation of MafA, Pdx1, and Beta2, transcription factors playing central roles in β-cell differentiation and function. The PINIT and SP-RING domains in the middle region of PIASy were dispensable. These findings suggest that PIASy binds to MafA through the SAP domain and negatively regulates the insulin gene promoter through a novel SIM1-dependent mechanism.