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Bethany Hart, Elizabeth Morgan and Emilyn U Alejandro

Fetal growth restriction is one of the most common obstetrical complications resulting in significant perinatal morbidity and mortality. The most frequent etiology of human singleton fetal growth restriction is placental insufficiency, which occurs secondary to reduced utero-placental perfusion, abnormal placentation, impaired trophoblast invasion and spiral artery remodeling, resulting in altered nutrient and oxygen transport. Two nutrient-sensing proteins involved in placental development and glucose and amino acid transport are mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and O-linked N-acetylglucosamine transferase (OGT), which are both regulated by availability of oxygen. Impairment in either of these pathways is associated with fetal growth restriction and accompanied by cellular stress in the forms of hypoxia, oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, metabolic dysfunction and nutrient starvation in the placenta. Recent evidence has emerged regarding the potential impact of nutrient sensors on fetal stress response, which occurs in a sexual dysmorphic manner, indicating a potential element of genetic gender susceptibility to fetal growth restriction. In this mini review, we focus on the known role of mTOR and OGT in placental development, nutrient regulation and response to cellular stress in human fetal growth restriction with supporting evidence from rodent models.

Open access

Oro Uchenunu, Michael Pollak, Ivan Topisirovic and Laura Hulea

Notwithstanding that metabolic perturbations and dysregulated protein synthesis are salient features of cancer, the mechanism underlying coordination of cellular energy balance with mRNA translation (which is the most energy consuming process in the cell) is poorly understood. In this review, we focus on recently emerging insights in the molecular underpinnings of the cross-talk between oncogenic kinases, translational apparatus and cellular energy metabolism. In particular, we focus on the central signaling nodes that regulate these processes (e.g. the mechanistic/mammalian target of rapamycin MTOR) and the potential implications of these findings on improving the anti-neoplastic efficacy of oncogenic kinase inhibitors.

Free access

James F H Pittaway and Leonardo Guasti

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare malignancy with an incidence worldwide of 0.7–2.0 cases/million/year. Initial staging is the most important factor in determining prognosis. If diagnosed early, complete surgical resection +/− adjuvant treatment can lead to 5-year survival of up to 80%. However, often it is diagnosed late and in advanced disease, 5-year survival is <15% with a high recurrence rate even after radical surgery. The mainstay of adjuvant treatment is with the drug mitotane. Mitotane has a specific cytotoxic effect on steroidogenic cells of the adrenal cortex, but despite this, progression through treatment is common. Developments in genetic analysis in the form of next-generation sequencing, aided by bioinformatics, have enabled high-throughput molecular characterisation of these tumours. This, in addition to a better appreciation of the processes of physiological, homeostatic self-renewal of the adrenal cortex, has furthered our understanding of the pathogenesis of this malignancy. In this review, we have detailed the pathobiology and genetic alterations in adrenocortical carcinoma by integrating current understanding of homeostasis and self-renewal in the normal adrenal cortex with molecular profiling of tumours from recent genetic analyses. Improved understanding of the mechanisms involved in self-renewal and stem cell hierarchy in normal human adrenal cortices, together with the identification of cell populations likely to be co-opted by oncogenic mutations, will enable further progress in the definition of the molecular pathways involved in the pathogenesis of ACC. The combination of these advances eventually will lead to the development of novel, effective and personalised strategies to eradicate molecularly annotated ACCs.

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Yingdi Yuan, Xin guo Cao, Jiaojiao Hu, Jingyun Li, Dan Shen, Lianghui You, Xianwei Cui, Xing Wang, Yahui Zhou, Yao Gao, Lijun Zhu, Pengfei Xu, Chen-bo Ji, Xirong Guo and Juan Wen

Obesity is a major risk factor for metabolic diseases, while adipocyte differentiation is closely related to obesity occurrence. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are a unique class of transcripts in regulation of various biological processes. Using lncRNA microarray, we found lncRNA AC092159.2 was highly expressed in differentiated HPA-v and located ~247bp upstream of the TMEM18, which was associated with BMI and obesity. We aimed to explore the role of AC092159.2 in adipogenesis and the underlying mechanisms. The effects of AC092159.2 gain- and loss-of-function on HPA-v adipogenesis were determined with lentivirus and siRNA mediated cell transduction, respectively. Lipid accumulation was evaluated by oil red O staining; the expression of AC092159.2, TMEM18 and several adipogenesis makers in HPA-v were analyzed by qPCR/western blot. We found the expression of AC092159.2 gradually increased during HPA-v differentiation, and its expression in omental adipose tissue was positively related with BMI among 48 human subjects. Overexpression of AC092159.2 promoted adipocytes differentiation while knockdown of it leaded to an adipogenic defect. Moreover, the expression of AC092159.2 and TMEM18 were positively correlated during adipogenic differentiation. AC092159.2 overexpression boosted TMEM18 expression while AC092159.2 knockdown restrained TMEM18 expression. Further rescue experiments showed that TMEM18 knockdown partially restrained adipogenic differentiation in AC092159.2 overexpressed HPA-v, and adipogenic defect caused by AC092159.2 knockdown could be rescued by TMEM18 overexpression. Luciferase reporter assays revealed that AC092159.2 had a transcriptional activation effect on TMEM18. We concluded that lncRNA AC092159.2 promoted human adipocytes differentiation possibly by regulating TMEM18.

Free access

Hannah E Lapp, Andrew A Bartlett and Richard G Hunter

Glucocorticoids have long been recognized for their role in regulating the availability of energetic resources, particularly during stress. Furthermore, bidirectional connections between glucocorticoids and the physiology and function of mitochondria have been discovered over the years. However, the precise mechanisms by which glucocorticoids act on mitochondria have only recently been explored. Glucocorticoids appear to regulate mitochondrial transcription via activation of glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) with elevated circulating glucocorticoid levels following stress. While several mechanistic questions remain, GR and other nuclear transcription factors appear to have the capacity to substantially alter mitochondrial transcript abundance. The regulation of mitochondrial transcripts by stress and glucocorticoids will likely prove functionally relevant in many stress-sensitive tissues including the brain.

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Megumi Iwahashi and Satoshi Narumi

Thyroid-specific transcription factor PAX8 has an indispensable role in the thyroid gland development, which is evidenced by the facts that PAX8/Pax8 mutations cause congenital hypothyroidism in humans and mice. More than 90% of known PAX8 mutations were located in the paired domain, suggesting the central role of the domain in exerting the molecular function. Structure-function relationships of PAX8, as well as other PAX family transcription factors, have never been investigated in a systematic manner. Here, we conducted the first alanine-scanning mutagenesis study, in which 132 alanine variants located in the paired domain of PAX8 were created and systematically evaluated in vitro. We found that 76 alanine variants (55%) were loss of function (LOF) variants (defined by <30% activity as compared with wildtype PAX8). Importantly, the distribution of LOF variants were skewed, with more frequently observed in the N-subdomain (65% of the alanine variants in the N-subdomain) than in the C-subdomain (45%). Twelve out of 13 alanine variants in residues that have been affected in patients with congenital hypothyroidism were actually LOF, suggesting that the alanine scanning data can be used to evaluate the functional importance of mutated residues. Using our in vitro data, we tested the accuracy of seven computational algorithms for pathogenicity prediction, showing that they are sensitive but not specific to evaluate on the paired domain alanine variants. Collectively, our experiment-based data would help better understanding of the structure-function relationships of the paired domain, and would provide a unique resource for pathogenicity prediction of future PAX8 variants.

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Jennifer Miller-Gallacher, Paul Sanders, Stuart Young, Andrew Sullivan, Stuart Baker, Samuel C Reddington, Matthew Clue, Katarzyna Kabelis, Jill Clark, Jane Wilmot, Daniel Thomas, Monika Chlebowska, Francesca Cole, Emily Pearson, Emma Roberts, Matthew Holly, Michele Evans, Ricardo Núñez Miguel, Michael Powell, Jane Sanders, Jadwiga Furmaniak and Bernard Rees Smith

The crystal structures of the thyroid stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR) leucine-rich repeat domain (amino acids 22–260; TSHR260) in complex with a stimulating human monoclonal autoantibody (M22™) and in complex with a blocking human autoantibody (K1-70™) have been solved. However, attempts to purify and crystallise free TSHR260, i.e. not bound to an autoantibody, have been unsuccessful due to the poor stability of free TSHR260. We now describe a TSHR260 mutant that has been stabilised by the introduction of six mutations (H63C, R112P, D143P, D151E, V169R and I253R) to form TSHR260-JMG55™, which is approximately 900 times more thermostable than wild-type TSHR260. These six mutations did not affect the binding of human TSHR monoclonal autoantibodies or patient serum TSHR autoantibodies to the TSHR260. Furthermore, the response of full-length TSHR to stimulation by TSH or human TSHR monoclonal autoantibodies was not affected by the six mutations. Thermostable TSHR260-JMG55™ has been purified and crystallised without ligand and the structure solved to 2.83 Å resolution. This is the first reported structure of a glycoprotein hormone receptor crystallised without ligand. The unbound TSHR260-JMG55™ structure and the M22™ and the K1-70™ bound TSHR260 structures are remarkably similar except for small changes in side chain conformations. This suggests that neither the mutations nor the binding of M22™ or K1-70™ change the rigid leucine-rich repeat domain structure of TSHR260. The solved TSHR260-JMG55™ structure provides a rationale as to why the six mutations have a thermostabilising effect and provides helpful guidelines for thermostabilisation strategies of other soluble protein domains.

Free access

Louise K Metcalfe, Greg C Smith and Nigel Turner

Essential elements of all cells – lipids – play important roles in energy production, signalling and as structural components. Despite these critical functions, excessive availability and intracellular accumulation of lipid is now recognised as a major factor contributing to many human diseases, including obesity and diabetes. In the context of these metabolic disorders, ectopic deposition of lipid has been proposed to have deleterious effects on insulin action. While this relationship has been recognised for some time now, there is currently no unifying mechanism to explain how lipids precipitate the development of insulin resistance. This review summarises the evidence linking specific lipid molecules to the induction of insulin resistance, describing some of the current controversies and challenges for future studies in this field.

Restricted access

Claire Glister, Sheena L Regan, Moafaq Samir and Phil G Knight

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are firmly implicated as intra-ovarian regulators of follicle function and steroidogenesis, but information is lacking regarding the regulation of BMP signalling by extracellular binding proteins co-expressed in the ovary. In this study, we compared the abilities of four BMP-binding proteins (gremlin, noggin, chordin, follistatin) to antagonize the action of four different BMPs (BMP2 BMP4, BMP6, BMP7) on LH-induced androstenedione secretion by bovine theca cells in primary culture. Expression of the four BMP-binding proteins and BMPs investigated here has previously been documented in bovine follicles. All four BMPs suppressed androstenedione secretion by >85%. Co-treatment with gremlin antagonized BMP2- and, less potently, BMP4-induced suppression of androgen secretion but did not affect responses to BMP6 and BMP7. Noggin antagonized the effects of three BMPs (rank order: BMP4 > BMP2 > BMP7) but did not affect the response to BMP6. Follistatin partially reversed the suppressive effects of BMP6 on androgen secretion but did not affect BMP2, BMP4 and BMP7 action. Chordin had no effect on the response to any of the four BMPs. BMP6 treatment upregulated thecal expression of GREM1, NOG, CHRD and SMAD6 mRNA whilst inhibiting expression of the four BMPs. Taken together with previous work documenting the intra-ovarian expression of different BMPs, BMP-binding proteins and signalling receptors, these observations reinforce the conclusion that extracellular binding proteins selectively modulate BMP-dependent alterations in thecal steroidogenesis. As such they likely constitute an important regulatory component of this and other intra-ovarian actions of BMPs.