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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.

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Maria J Salazar, Adriana R Rodrigues, Mafalda Sousa, José Magalhães, Delminda Neves, Henrique Almeida, and Alexandra M Gouveia

White adipose tissue (WAT) browning is a potent mechanism to dissipate energy as heat and, thus, its activation constitutes a promise therapeutic approach to obesity. We previously reported the melanocortin α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) ability to increase the number of beige cells in subcutaneous inguinal WAT (ingWAT) in high fat diet (HFD)-fed mice. The current study examined the browning effect of intraperitoneally administered α-MSH on diverse fat depots from mice fed with HFD or standard rodent diet (SD). For this, mRNA expression of browning hallmark genes was quantified concomitantly with histological examination of the adipose tissue samples (epidydimal (eWAT), mesenteric (mWAT), retroperitoneal (rpWAT) or ingWAT). As well, α-MSH impact on body weight, serum profile, WAT mass and lipolytic rates were evaluated. In the visceral depots mWAT, eWAT and rpWAT from HFD-fed mice, α-MSH was not able to induce a browning mechanism. Surprisingly, in SD-fed mice, α-MSH decreased the expression of several beige-specific genes in rpWAT and promoted an increase of the size of lipid droplets. No browning effect was observed in ingWAT from SD-fed mice. We also verified that HFD ingestion per se stimulated the browning mechanisms in rpWAT, but not in mWAT and eWAT. In conclusion, the fat depots from diverse anatomical locations respond differently to α-MSH treatment when exposed to different diets.

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Xue Wen, Yao Xiong, Huimin Liu, Ting Geng, Ling Jin, Ming Zhang, Ling Ma, and Yuanzhen Zhang

The aberrant histone methylation patterns contribute to the pathogenesis of endometriosis (EM). Mixed lineage leukemia 1 (MLL1), a histone methyltransferase, is crucial for gene expression by catalyzing the trimethylation of histone 3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3) in gene promoter. This study aimed to explore whether MLL1 is involved in EM-related infertility. The expressions of MLL1 and H3K4me3 were analyzed in the eutopic endometria from EM women with infertility (n = 22) and the normal endometria from EM-free women (n = 22). Mouse EM model was established. The MLL1 and H3K4me3 expression patterns in mice endometria of early pregnancy were also investigated. Immortalized human endometrial stromal cells (iESCs) were cultured and underwent in vitro decidualization. The chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP-seq) was performed to find the target gene of MLL1 during decidual process. Results showed that both MLL1 and H3K4me3 decreased in the eutopic endometrium from EM patients compared to that in the normal endometrium. During early pregnancy and the decidual process, MLL1 and H3K4me3 were significantly upregulated in stromal cells. ChIP-seq and ChIP-qPCR found that the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 4I 2 (COX4I2) was directly targeted by MLL1. The dominance of COX4I2-containing enzyme induced the expression of hypoxia-inducible factor-2α (HIF-2α), whose expression in the peri-implantation endometrium is essential for embryo implantation. Further results showed that MLL1 was directly regulated by progesterone (P4) – P4 receptors (PRs). Our study proved that MLL1 was involved in EM-related infertility, which may provide a novel approach to treat the nonreceptive endometrium in EM patients.

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Excel Rio S Maylem, Leon J Spicer, Isadora Batalha, and Luis F Schutz

Asprosin is a novel fasting-induced protein encoded by fibrillin-1 (FBN1) gene, produced when FBN1 is cleaved by the enzyme furin, and is associated with insulin resistance and polycystic ovarian syndrome in humans. To characterize mRNA abundance of FBN1, FURIN, and the presumed asprosin receptor, olfactory receptor family 4 subfamily M member 1 (OR4M1) in granulosa (GC) and theca cells (TC), and identify hormones regulating FBN1 mRNA expression, GC and TC from small (1–5 mm; SM) and large (>8 mm; LG) follicles were collected from ovaries of heifers obtained at an abattoir and used for real-time PCR gene expression analysis or in vitro evaluation of hormone regulation and asprosin effects. SMTC had 151-fold greater (P < 0.05) FBN1 mRNA abundance than SMGC, and LGTC had 50-fold greater FBN1 mRNA than LGGC. In contrast, OR4M1 mRNA was 81-fold greater in SMGC than LGGC and did not differ from SMTC, but LGTC had 9-fold greater OR4M1 mRNA than LGGC. FURIN mRNA was 2.6-fold greater in SMTC than SMGC, but did not differ among follicular sizes. In cultured TC, leptin, insulin, LH, IGF1 and steroids did not affect FBN1 mRNA, but TGFB1 increased (P < 0.05) FBN1 mRNA by 2.2-fold; EGF and FGFs increased FBN1 mRNA by 1.3- to 1.5-fold. Asprosin enhanced LH-induced TC androstenedione production, reduced IGF1-induced TC proliferation, and had no effect on progesterone production. Developmental regulation of FBN1, FURIN and OR4M1 along with direct effects of asprosin on TC suggests that asprosin may be a novel regulator of ovarian follicular function.

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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 C. elegans and fruit flies. FAM20C phosphorylates FGF23 post-translationally, targeting 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 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 sulfate, 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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Tomoko Kato, Norio Harada, Eri Ikeguchi-Ogura, Akiko Sankoda, Tomonobu Hatoko, Xuejing Lu, Takuma Yasuda, Shunsuke Yamane, and Nobuya Inagaki

Cholecystokinin (CCK) is secreted from enteroendocrine I cells in response to fat, carbohydrate, and protein ingestion. Gene expression of nutrient-sensing molecules in I cells remains unclear, primarily due to the difficulty in distinguishing I cells from intestinal epithelial cells in vivo. In this study, we generated CCK reporter male mice in which the red fluorescence protein tdTomato (Tomato) is produced by activation of the native murine Cck promoter. Fluorescence microscopy revealed the presence of Tomato-positive cells in upper small intestine (SI), lower SI, and colon. Flow cytometer analysis revealed that Tomato-positive cells among epithelial cells of upper SI, lower SI, and colon occurred at the rate of 0.95, 0.54, and 0.06%, respectively. In upper SI and lower SI, expression levels of Cck mRNA were higher in Tomato-positive cells than those in Tomato-negative cells. The fatty acid receptors Gpr120, Gpr40, and Gpr43 and the oleoylethanolamide receptor Gpr119 were highly expressed in Tomato-positive cells isolated from SI, but were not found in Tomato-positive cells from colon. The glucose and fructose transporters Sglt1, Glut2, and Glut5 were expressed in both Tomato-positive cells and -negative cells, but these expression levels tended to be decreased in Tomato-positive cells from upper SI to colon. The peptide transporter Pept1 and receptor Gpr93 were expressed in both Tomato-positive cells and -negative cells, whereas Casr was expressed only in Tomato-positive cells isolated from SI. Thus, this transgenic mouse reveals that I cell number and gene expression in I cells vary according to region in the gastrointestinal tract.

Free access

Zifeng Zhao, Lei Yin, Feihua Wu, and Xin Tong

Discovered as a b-ZIP transcription repressor 30 years ago, E4 promoter-binding protein 4 (E4BP4) has been shown to play critical roles in immunity, circadian rhythms, and cancer progression. Recent research has highlighted E4BP4 as a novel regulator of metabolisms in various tissues. In this review, we focus on the function and mechanisms of hepatic E4BP4 in regulating lipid and glucose homeostasis, bile metabolism, as well as xenobiotic metabolism. Finally, E4BP4-specific targets will be discussed for the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders.