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Open access

Hasnat Ali Abid, Asuka Inoue, and Caroline M. Gorvin

The calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) is a G-protein-coupled receptor that plays a fundamental role in extracellular calcium (Ca2+e) homeostasis by regulating parathyroid hormone release and urinary calcium excretion. The CaSR has been described to activate all four G-protein subfamilies (Gαq/11, Gαi/o, Gα12/13, Gαs), and mutations in the receptor that cause hyper/hypocalcaemia, have been described to bias receptor signalling. However, many of these studies are based on measurements of second messenger proteins or gene transcription that occurs many steps downstream of receptor activation and can represent convergence points of several signalling pathways. Therefore, to assess CaSR-mediated G-protein activation directly, we took advantage of a recently described NanoBiT G-protein dissociation assay system. Our studies, performed in HEK293 cells stably expressing CaSR, demonstrate that Ca2+e stimulation activates all Gαq/11 family and several Gαi/o family proteins, although Gαz was not activated. CaSR stimulated dissociation of Gα12/13 and Gαs from Gβ-subunits, but this occurred at a slower rate than that of other Gα-subunits. Investigation of cDNA expression of G-proteins in three tissues abundantly expressing CaSR, the parathyroids, kidneys and pancreas, showed Gα11, Gαz, Gαi1 and Gα13 genes were highly expressed in parathyroid tissue, indicating CaSR most likely activates Gα11 and Gαi1 in parathyroids. In kidney and pancreas, the majority of G-proteins were similarly expressed, suggesting CaSR may activate multiple G-proteins in these cells. Thus, these studies validate a single assay system that can be used to robustly assess CaSR variants and biased signalling and could be utilised in the development of new pharmacological compounds targeting CaSR.

Open access

Zuo Zhang, Hongli Zhou, and Jiyin Zhou

Earlier, it was shown that reversing the downregulation of neuritin expression in the brain improves central neuropathy in diabetic rats. We investigated the protective mechanism of neuritin in diabetic cognitive dysfunction via astrocytes. Further, the impact of the overexpression of neuritin in the cortex and the hippocampus on diabetic cognitive dysfunction and astrogliosis in type 2 diabetic (db/db) mice was assessed. Antagonists were used to inhibit the JAK2/STAT3 signaling pathway in U-118MG, an astrocyte cell line. Immunofluorescence, Western blotting, and real-time PCR were performed. Neuritin overexpression in the hippocampus of db/db mice significantly ameliorated cognitive dysfunction, hippocampal neuronal impairment, and synaptic plasticity deterioration, and inhibited astrogliosis and the JAK2/STAT3 signaling pathway in the hippocampus. Neuritin suppressed the JAK2/STAT3 signaling pathway to inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced gliosis in U-118MG cells. It was observed that neuritin regulates the JAK2/STAT3 signaling pathway in astrocytes to inhibit astrogliosis and improve diabetic cognitive dysfunction.

Restricted access

Ying Xue, Ran Li, Ping Fang, Zheng-qin Ye, Yong Zhao, Yun Zhou, Ke-qin Zhang, and Ling Li

Gouty arthritis is a common inflammatory disease characterized by monosodium urate (MSU) crystal induced nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptor (NLR) family pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome activation with up-regulated caspase-1 protease and IL-1β in macrophages. Cucurbitacin B (CuB) is a tetracyclic triterpene that possesses a potential anti-inflammatory activity. However, the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of CuB on gout have not been well characterized. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to determine whether CuB exhibits anti-inflammatory effects on gout and to analyze the underlying molecular mechanism. We examined the effects of CuB on various stimuli-activated bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) and the mice model with MSU-induced acute gouty arthritis. Our results demonstrated that CuB effectively suppressed multiple stimuli-activated IL-1β secretion by interrupting NLRP3 inflammasome complex formation, inhibiting NLRP3 inflammasome activation and suppressing key enzymes of glycolysis in macrophages. Consistent with this, CuB pretreatment also ameliorated MSU-induced arthritis in vivo models of gout arthritis, manifested by reduced foot swelling and inflammatory cell infiltration. Taken together, our data provide the evidence that CuB is a NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor with therapeutic potential for treating NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated diseases, especially gouty arthritis.

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Agatha Assis-Ferreira, Roberta F.g. Saldanha-Gama, Natalia M de Brito, Mariana Renovato-Martins, Rafael L Simões, Christina Barja-Fidalgo, and Simone Vargas da Silva

In obesity, high levels of TNF-α in the bone marrow microenvironment induces the bone marrow-mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs) towards a pro-adipogenic phenotype. Here, we investigated the effect of obesity on the migratory potential of BM-MSCs and their fate towards the adipose tissues. BM-MSCs were isolated from male C57Bl/06 mice with high-fat diet-induced obesity. The migratory potential of the BM-MSCs, their presence in the subcutaneous (SAT) and the visceral adipose tissues (VAT), and the possible mechanisms involved were investigated. Obesity did not affect MSC content in the bone marrow but increased the frequency of MSCs in blood, SAT, and VAT. In these animals, the SAT adipocytes presented a larger area, without any changes in adipokine production or the SDF-1α gene expression. In contrast, in VAT, obesity increased leptin and IL-10 levels but did not modify the size of the adipocytes. The BM-MSCs from obese animals presented increased spontaneous migratory activity. Despite the augmented expression of CXCR4, these cells exhibited decreased migratory response toward SDF-1α, compared to that of BM-MSCs from lean mice. The PI3K-AKT pathway activation seems to mediate the migration of BM-MSCs from lean mice, but not from obese mice. Additionally, we observed an increase in the spontaneous migration of BM-MSCs from lean mice when they were co-cultured with BM-HCs from obese animals, suggesting a paracrine effect. We concluded that obesity increased the migratory potential of the BM-MSCs and induced their accumulation in VAT, which may represent an adaptive mechanism in response to chronic nutrient overload.

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Zhousheng Jin, Fangfang Xia, Jiaojiao Dong, Tingting Lin, Yaoyao Cai, Jiali Chen, Xixi Chen, Zhenyang Huang, Quanguang Wang, Hongfei Chen, and Junkai Zhang

Glucocorticoid excess often causes a variety of cardiovascular complications, including hypertension, atherosclerosis, and cardiac hypertrophy. To abrogate its cardiac side effects, it is necessary to fully disclose the pathophysiological role of glucocorticoid in cardiac remodelling. Previous clinical and experimental studies have found that omentin-1, one of the adipokines, has beneficial effects in cardiovascular diseases, and is closely associated with metabolic disorders. However, there is no evidence to address the potential role of omentin-1 in glucocorticoid excess-induced cardiac injuries. To uncover the links, the present study utilized rat model with glucocorticoid-induced cardiac injuries and clinical patients with abnormal cardiac function. Chronic administration of glucocorticoid excess reduced rat serum omentin-1 concentration, which closely correlated with cardiac functional parameters. Intravenous administration of adeno-associated virus encoding omentin-1 upregulated the circulating omentin-1 level and attenuated glucocorticoid excess-induced cardiac hypertrophy and functional disorders. Overexpression of omentin-1 also improved cardiac mitochondrial function, including the reduction of lipid deposits, induction of mitochondrial biogenesis, and enhanced mitochondrial activities. Mechanistically, omentin-1 phosphorylated and activated the GSK3β pathway in the heart. From a study of 28 patients with Cushing’s syndrome and 23 healthy subjects, the plasma level of glucocorticoid was negatively correlated with omentin-1, and was positively associated with cardiac ejection fraction and fractional shortening. Collectively, the present study provided a novel role of omentin-1 in glucocorticoid excess-induced cardiac injuries and found that the omentin-1/GSK3β pathway was a potential therapeutic target in combating the side effects of glucocorticoid.

Open access

Yunxia Zhang, Jin Li, Hui-hui Wang, Jiao Li, Yue Yu, Bo Li, Li Huang, Changjing Wu, and Xiaomeng Liu

Despite all modern advances in medicine, there are few reports of effective and safe drugs to treat obesity. Our objective was to screen anti-obesity natural compounds, and to verify whether they can reduce the body weight gain and investigate their molecular mechanisms. By using drug-screening methods, Phytohemagglutinin (PHA) was found to be the most anti-obesity candidate natural compound. Six-week-old C57BL/6J mice were fed with high-fat diet (HFD) and intraperitoneally injected with 0.25mg/kg PHA every day for 8 weeks. The body weight, glucose homeostasis, oxygen consumption and physical activity were assessed. We also measured the heat intensity, body temperature and the gene expression of key regulators of energy expenditure. Prevention study results showed PHA treatment not only reduced the body weight gain, but also maintained glucose homeostasis in HFD-fed mice. Further study indicated energy expenditure and uncoupling protein 1 (UCP-1) expression of brown adipose tissue (BAT) and white adipose tissue (WAT) in HFD-fed mice were significantly improved by PHA. In the therapeutic study, the similar effect was observed. PHA inhibited lipid droplet formation and up-regulated mitochondrial related genes expression during adipogenesis in vitro. UCP-1 KO mice displayed no differences in body weight, glucose homeostasis and core body temperature between PHA and control groups. Our results suggest that PHA prevent and treat obesity by increasing energy expenditure though up-regulation of BAT thermogenesis.

Open access

Shree Senthil Kumar, Marie-Louise Ward, and Kathleen Grace Mountjoy

The melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R), a critical G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) regulating energy homeostasis, activates multiple signalling pathways, including mobilisation of intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i). However, very little is known about the physiological significance of MC4R-induced [Ca2+]i since few studies measure MC4R-induced [Ca2+]i. High-throughput, read-out assays for [Ca2+]i have proven unreliable for overexpressed GPCRs like MC4R, which exhibit low sensitivity mobilising [Ca2+]i. Therefore, we developed, optimised, and validated a robust quantitative high-throughput assay using Fura-2 ratio-metric calcium dye and HEK293 cells stably transfected with MC4R. The quantitation enables direct comparisons between assays and even between different research laboratories. Assay conditions were optimised step-by-step to eliminate interference from stretch-activated receptor increases in [Ca2+]i and to maximise ligand-activated MC4R-induced [Ca2+]i. Calcium imaging was performed using a PheraStar FS multi-well plate reader. Probenecid, included in the buffers to prevent extrusion of Fura-2 dye from cells, was found to interfere with the EGTA-chelation of calcium, required to determine Rmin for quantitation of [Ca2+]i. Therefore, we developed a method to determine Rmin in specific wells without probenecid, which was run in parallel with each assay. The validation of the assay was shown by reproducible α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) concentration-dependent activation of the stably expressed human MC4R (hMC4R) and mouse MC4R (mMC4R), inducing increases in [Ca2+]i, for three independent experiments. This robust, reproducible, high-throughput assay that quantitatively measures MC4R-induced mobilisation of [Ca2+]i in vitro has potential to advance the development of therapeutic drugs and understanding of MC4R signalling associated with human obesity.

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’UTR (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.

Restricted access

Hiromi Nagata, Jingya Lyu, Hitomi Imachi, Kensaku Fukunaga, Seisuke Sato, Toshihiro Kobayashi, Takanobu Saheki, Kayoko Seo, Japar B Salimah, Hisakazu Iwama, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yoshihiro Ogawa, and Koji Murao

Vascular complications are the main cause of morbidity and mortality in diabetic patients, and advanced glycation end products (AGEs) play a critical role in promoting diabetic vascular dysfunction. The human homolog of scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI), CD36, and LIMPII analog-1 (hSR-BI/CLA-1) facilitates the cellular uptake of cholesterol from HDL. In endothelial cells, HDL activates endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) via hSR-BI/CLA-1. In this study, we elucidated the effects of AGEs on hSR-BI/CLA-1 expression in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). HSR-BI/CLA-1 expression was examined by real-time PCR, western blot analysis, and reporter gene assay in HUVECs incubated with AGEs. eNOS activity was assessed by detecting the phosphorylation (Ser 1179) of eNOS. Our results showed that AGEs decreased the endogenous expression of hSR-BI/CLA-1. AGEs also inhibited the activity of the hSR-BI/CLA-1 promoter and its mRNA expression via receptor RAGE. We identified the binding site for Smad1 on the hSR-BI/CLA-1 promoter: Smad1 bound to its promoter. AGE treatment stimulated the transcriptional activity of Smad1, and mutation of the Smad1 binding site inhibited the effect of AGEs on the hSR-BI/CLA-1 promoter. HDL-treatment enhanced the phosphorylation of eNOS at Ser 1179, but pretreatment with AGEs inhibited the phosphorylation of eNOS Ser 1179. These results suggested that AGEs downregulate the expression of the endothelial hSR-BI/CLA-1 via the Smad1 pathway, which may be a therapeutic target for diabetic endothelial dysfunction.

Open access

Nathan Appanna, Hylton Gibson, Elena Gangitano, Niall J Dempster, Karen Morris, Sherly George, Anastasia Arvaniti, Laura L Gathercole, Brian Keevil, Trevor M Penning, Karl-Heinz Storbeck, Jeremy W Tomlinson, and Nikolaos Nikolaou

Steroid hormones, including glucocorticoids and androgens, exert a wide variety of effects in the body across almost all tissues. The steroid A-ring 5β-reductase (AKR1D1) is expressed in human liver and testes, and three splice variants have been identified (AKR1D1-001, AKR1D1-002, AKR1D1-006). Amongst these, AKR1D1-002 is the best described; it modulates steroid hormone availability and catalyses an important step in bile acid biosynthesis. However, specific activity and expression of AKR1D1-001 and AKR1D1-006 are unknown. Expression of AKR1D1 variants were measured in human liver biopsies and hepatoma cell lines by qPCR. Their three-dimensional (3D) structures were predicted using in silico approaches. AKR1D1 variants were overexpressed in HEK293 cells, and successful overexpression confirmed by qPCR and Western blotting. Cells were treated with either cortisol, dexamethasone, prednisolone, testosterone or androstenedione, and steroid hormone clearance was measured by mass spectrometry. Glucocorticoid and androgen receptor activation were determined by luciferase reporter assays. AKR1D1-002 and AKR1D1-001 are expressed in human liver, and only AKR1D1-006 is expressed in human testes. Following overexpression, AKR1D1-001 and AKR1D1-006 protein levels were lower than AKR1D1-002, but significantly increased following treatment with the proteasomal inhibitor, MG-132. AKR1D1-002 efficiently metabolised glucocorticoids and androgens and decreased receptor activation. AKR1D1-001 and AKR1D1-006 poorly metabolised dexamethasone, but neither protein metabolised cortisol, prednisolone, testosterone or androstenedione. We have demonstrated the differential expression and role of AKR1D1 variants in steroid hormone clearance and receptor activation in vitro. AKR1D1-002 is the predominant functional protein in steroidogenic and metabolic tissues. In addition, AKR1D1-001 and AKR1D1-006 may have a limited, steroid-specific role in the regulation of dexamethasone action.