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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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Maya Elena Lee, Aisha Aderayo Tepede, Adel Mandl, Lee Scott Weinstein, Jaydira del Rivero, Sunita K Agarwal and Jenny E. Blau

Gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) comprise a heterogenous and diverse group of neoplasms arising from a common neuroendocrine cell origin. The majority of these tumors occur sporadically while ~20% manifest within the context of hereditary syndromes. Germline MEN1 mutations cause a syndrome with an increased susceptibility to multifocal primary GEP NETs. In addition, MEN1 mutations also occur in sporadic GEP NETs. MEN1 alternations are the most frequent sporadic mutation found in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs). We explore the implication of the loss of the MEN1 encoded protein menin as a key pathogenic driver in subsets of GEP NETs with downstream consequences including upregulation of the oncogenic receptor c-MET (hepatocyte growth factor receptor). This review will summarize the data related to the clinical presentation, therapeutic standards, and outcomes of sporadic and MEN1 associated GEP NETs. We present the data on c-MET expression in GEP NETs, clinical trials using c-MET inhibtors, and provide an overview of the molecular mechanisms by which c-MET inhibition in GEP NETs represents a potential precision-medicine targeted approach.

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Andrea Hanel, Henna-Riikka Malmberg and Carsten Carlberg

Molecular endocrinology of vitamin D is based on the activation of the transcription factor vitamin D receptor (VDR) by the vitamin D metabolite 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. This nuclear vitamin D-sensing process causes epigenome-wide effects, such as changes in chromatin accessibility as well as in the contact of VDR and its supporting pioneer factors with thousands of genomic binding sites, referred to as vitamin D response elements. VDR binding enhancer regions loop to transcription start sites of hundreds of vitamin D target genes resulting in changes of their expression. Thus, vitamin D signaling is based on epigenome- and transcriptome-wide shifts in VDR-expressing tissues. Monocytes are the most responsive cell type of the immune system and serve as a paradigm for uncovering the chromatin model of vitamin D signaling. In this review, an alternative approach for selecting vitamin D target genes is presented, which are most relevant for understanding the impact of vitamin D endocrinology on innate immunity. Different scenarios of the regulation of primary upregulated vitamin D target genes are presented, in which vitamin D-driven super-enhancers comprise a cluster of persistent (constant) and/or inducible (transient) VDR-binding sites. In conclusion, the spatio-temporal VDR binding in the context of chromatin is most critical for the regulation of vitamin D target genes.

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Yawen Xu, Jinhua Lu, Jinxiang Wu, Ruiwei Jiang, Chuanhui Guo, Yedong Tang, Haibin Wang, Shuangbo Kong and Suqing Wang

Decidualization is a critical process for embryo implantation and pregnancy maintenance in humans. The homeobox gene HOXA10 has been widely studied in endometrial receptivity establishment and decidualization. MEIS1, a three-amino-acid loop extension (TALE) family homeobox gene, has been proven to be a co-factor for HOXA10 in mouse uterus. However, the interaction between MEIS1 and HOXA10 in the human decidual cells remains to be elucidated. siRNA and CRISPR-Cas9 were employed to knockdown and knockout MEIS1 in the cultured human endometrial stromal cells, and it was found that MEIS1 deficiency leads to impaired decidualization. The physical interaction between the MEIS1 and HOXA10 in human endometrial stromal cell was confirmed by immunoprecipitation. Moreover, KAT2B and ETA were proved to be downregulated in the absence of MEIS1, and luciferase reporter and ChIP assays demonstrated that MEIS1-HOXA10 complex binds to the promoters of KAT2B and ETA and regulates their activity. Overexpression of KAT2B and ETA can partially rescue the decidualization defects in MEIS1-knockout HESCs. Taken together, these data suggest that MEIS1 plays an indispensable role in decidualization in human endometrial stromal cells, and MEIS1 interacts with HOXA10 to regulate the downstream genes, such as KAT2B and ETA. These findings will contribute to our understanding about the regulatory network in the process of decidualization in humans.

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Jingyi Luo, Tingting Liu and Weiping Teng

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT) is a common organ-specific autoimmune disease, which develops in 0.3–1.5/1000 subjects annually. The aims of this study were to determine the lncRNA profile in peripheral blood CD4+ T cells from HT patients and then to characterize the potential function of NONHSAT079547.2. A total of 37 HT patients and 50 sex- and age-matched healthy controls were enrolled for high-throughput sequencing. Another 43 HT patients and 50 sex- and age-matched controls were enrolled for validation via real-time PCR. Flow cytometry and CCK8 assays were used to measure cell apoptosis and growth levels. Western blotting was used for measuring the expression of growth- and apoptosis-associated proteins. IL-17 serum concentration and transcriptional level in CD4+ T cells of participants were detected by ELISA and real-time PCR, respectively. The mechanism of competitive endogenous RNA was determined using real-time PCR, ELISA, RNA immunoprecipitation, and dual-luciferase assays in Jurkat cells. A total of 7564 significantly differentially expressed lncRNAs were found, of which 3913 lncRNAs were upregulated and 3651 lncRNAs were downregulated in HT group when compared to control group. NONHSAT079547.2 was significantly upregulated in HT patients and was positively correlated with serum thyroid peroxidase antibody level. Further studies confirmed that NONHSAT079547.2 could promote cell growth and control IL-17 expression and secretion via the NONHSAT079547.2/miR-4716-5p/IL-17 axis.This is the first study to describe the lncRNA profile in CD4+ T cells of HT patients. The studies on the function of NONHSAT079547.2 might elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms and represent potential biomarkers for HT.

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Karin J Bosma, Mohsin Rahim, Kritika Singh, Slavina B Goleva, Martha L Wall, Jing Xia, Kristen E Syring, James K Oeser, Greg Poffenberger, Owen P McGuinness, Anna L Means, Alvin C Powers, Wen-hong Li, Lea K Davis, Jamey D Young and Richard M O’Brien

The G6PC1, G6PC2 and G6PC3 genes encode distinct glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit (G6PC) isoforms. In mice, germline deletion of G6pc2 lowers fasting blood glucose (FBG) without affecting fasting plasma insulin (FPI) while, in isolated islets, glucose-6-phosphatase activity and glucose cycling are abolished and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) is enhanced at submaximal but not high glucose. These observations are all consistent with a model in which G6PC2 regulates the sensitivity of GSIS to glucose by opposing the action of glucokinase. G6PC2 is highly expressed in human and mouse islet beta cells however, various studies have shown trace G6PC2 expression in multiple tissues raising the possibility that G6PC2 also affects FBG through non-islet cell actions. Using real-time PCR we show here that expression of G6pc1 and/or G6pc3 are much greater than G6pc2 in peripheral tissues, whereas G6pc2 expression is much higher than G6pc3 in both pancreas and islets with G6pc1 expression not detected. In adult mice, beta cell-specific deletion of G6pc2 was sufficient to reduce FBG without changing FPI. In addition, electronic health record-derived phenotype analyses showed no association between G6PC2 expression and phenotypes clearly unrelated to islet function in humans. Finally, we show that germline G6pc2 deletion enhances glycolysis in mouse islets and that glucose cycling can also be detected in human islets. These observations are all consistent with a mechanism by which G6PC2 action in islets is sufficient to regulate the sensitivity of GSIS to glucose and hence influence FBG without affecting FPI.

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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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Yujia Pan, Weikang Yun, Bingshuai Shi, Rongjun Cui, Chi Liu, Zhong Ding, Jialin Fan, Wenqian Jiang, Jiebing Tang, Tianhu Zheng, Xiaoguang Yu and Ying Liu

miR-146b-5p is overexpressed in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) and is thought to be a related diagnostic marker. Previous studies have indicated the effects of iodine on oncogenic activation. However, the effect of iodine on the proliferation of PTC cells and the associated underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We found that miR-146b-5p was downregulated and smad4 was upregulated in patients exposed to high iodine concentration by in situ hybridisation (ISH) and immunohistochemical (IHC). NaI (10-3 M) treatment downregulated miR-146b-5p and upregulated Smad4 in PTC cell lines. Luciferase assay was used to confirm that Smad4 is a target of miR-146b-5p. Furthermore, MTT assay and cell cycle analysis indicated that 10-3 M NaI suppressed cell proliferation and caused G0/G1 phase arrest. Real-time PCR and western blotting demonstrated that 10-3 M NaI increased p21, p27, and p57 levels and reduced cyclin D1 levels in PTC cells. Our findings suggest that 10-3 M NaI increases Smad4 levels through repression of miR-146b-5p expression, curbing the proliferation in PTC.

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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.