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Yi Lu, Wang-sheng Wang, Yi-kai Lin, Jiang-wen Lu, Wen-jiao Li, Chu-yue Zhang, and Kang Sun

Our previous studies have demonstrated that human fetal membranes are capable of de novo synthesis of serum amyloid A1 (SAA1), an acute phase protein of inflammation, wherein SAA1 may participate in parturition by inducing a number of inflammation mediators including interleukine-1β, interleukine-6 and prostaglandin E2. However, the regulation of SAA1 expression in the fetal membranes remains largely unknown. In the current study, we examined the regulation of SAA1 expression by cortisol, a crucial steroid produced locally in the fetal membranes at parturition, and the interaction between cortisol and SAA1 in the feed-forward induction of SAA1 expression in human amnion fibroblasts. Results showed that cortisol-induced SAA1 expression in a concentration-dependent manner, which was greatly enhanced by SAA1 despite modest induction of SAA1 expression by itself. Mechanism studies revealed that the induction of SAA1 expression by cortisol and SAA1 was blocked by either the transcription factor STAT3 antagonist AZD0530 or siRNA-mediated knockdown of STAT3. Furthermore, cortisol- and SAA1-induced STAT3 phosphorylation in a sequential order with the induction by SAA1 preceding the induction by cortisol. However, combination of cortisol and SAA1 failed to further intensify the phosphorylation of STAT3. Consistently, cortisol and SAA1 increased the enrichment of STAT3 at the SAA1 promoter. Taking together, this study has demonstrated that cortisol and SAA1 can reinforce each other in the induction of SAA1 expression through sequential phosphorylation of STAT3. The enhancement of cortisol-induced SAA1 expression by SAA1 may lead to excessive SAA1 accumulation resulting in parturition-associated inflammation in the fetal membranes.

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Xiuli Lu, Yang Li, Jianli Liu, Xiangyu Cao, Xude Wang, Delong Wang, Hisao Seo, and Bing Gao

DHCR24 encodes 3β-hydroxysteroid-Δ24 reductase, catalyzing the conversion of desmosterol to cholesterol. Our previous study demonstrated that DHCR24 exerts an anti-apoptotic function as a reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger, for which it needs its FAD-binding domain. The membrane topology of DHCR24 on endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the functional significance of its FAD-binding domain are not completely understood. Based on the structure predicted by bioinformatics, we studied the membrane topology of DHCR24 in murine neuroblastoma cells (N2A), using the fluorescent protease protection (FPP) technique. We showed that full-length DHCR24 is localized to the membrane of ER, whereas the predicted transmembrane (TM) domain-deleted DHCR24 mutation is localized to the cytoplasm. The change of DHCR24 localization suggests that the N-terminal TM domain is essential for the ER membrane targeting of DHCR24. The FPP assay demonstrated the membrane topology of DHCR24 with an N-terminal luminal/C-terminal cytoplasmic orientation. Measurement of intracellular ROS using H2DCFDA revealed that the ROS levels of cells infected by plasmids driving expression of full-length DHCR24 or the TM domain-deleted DHCR24 mutation after H2O2 exposure were lower than those of control cells, suggesting that the ER membrane targeting of DHCR24 is not required for its enzymatic ROS scavenging activity. Confocal fluorescence microscopy revealed that the DHCR24-overexpressed cells were protected from apoptosis in response to oxidative stress, which was accompanied by a decrease in DHCR24 content on the ER and activation of caspase-3, suggesting that the anti-apoptotic function of DHCR24 is associated with its cleavage by caspase.

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Yabing Mi, Wangsheng Wang, Jiangwen Lu, Chuyue Zhang, Yawei Wang, Hao Ying, and Kang Sun

Rupture of fetal membranes (ROM) can initiate parturition at both term and preterm. Collagen III in the compact layer of the amnion contributes to the tensile strength of fetal membranes. However, the upstream signals triggering collagen III degradation remain mostly elusive. In this study, we investigated the role of cortisol regenerated by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (11β-HSD1) in collagen III degradation in human amnion fibroblasts with an aim to seek novel targets for the prevention of preterm premature ROM (pPROM)-elicited preterm birth. Human amnion tissue and cultured amnion tissue explants and amnion fibroblasts were used to study the regulation of collagen III, which is composed of three identical 3α 1 chains (COL3A1), by cortisol. Cortisol decreased COL3A1 protein but not mRNA abundance in a concentration-dependent manner. Cortisone also decreased COL3A1 protein, which was blocked by 11β-HSD1 inhibition. The reduction in COL3A1 protein by cortisol was not affected by a transcription inhibitor but was further enhanced by a translation inhibitor. Autophagic pathway inhibitor chloroquine or siRNA-mediated knock-down of ATG7, an essential protein for autophagy, failed to block cortisol-induced reduction in COL3A1 protein abundance, whereas proteasome pathway inhibitors MG132 and bortezomib significantly attenuated cortisol-induced reduction in COL3A1 protein abundance. Moreover, cortisol increased COL3A1 ubiquitination and the reduction of COL3A1 protein by cortisol was blocked by PYR-41, a ubiquitin-activating enzyme inhibitor. Conclusively, cortisol regenerated in amnion fibroblasts may be associated with ROM at parturition by reducing collagen III protein abundance through a ubiquitin-proteasome pathway.

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Xiaohui Wang, Yidong Li, Xiaoyan Zhu, Yan Wang, Fei Diao, and Jian Lu

Glucocorticoid (GC) effectively suppresses immune and inflammatory responses and inhibits the growth of several types of cells, but the role of GC and its receptor on macrophage proliferation is unclear. In our previous work, we found RAW-GR(−) cells (murine macrophage RAW264.7 cells stably transfected with GR-siRNA expression vector by RNA interference) grew faster by about twofold. In this study, we further explored the role and mechanisms of GC/GR on the proliferation of macrophage. We found that the growth of RAW264.7 cells was inhibited by dexamethasone (Dex) in a concentration-dependent manner. The mRNA and protein levels of signal regulatory protein α1 (SIRPA) were induced by GC/GR in RAW264.7 cells and SIRPA expression was decreased remarkably in RAW-GR(−) cells. Overexpression of SIRPA negatively regulated the proliferation of RAW-GR(−) cells, and inhibition of SIRPA expression by a small from RNA interference attenuated Dex-induced proliferation inhibition in RAW264.7 cells. The proliferation inhibition of GC/GR was also found in mouse peritoneal macrophage, which was associated with the increase in SIRPA induced by GC/GR as well. In addition, elevation of the expression of CDK2, cyclinD1, and cyclinB1, but not phosphorylated ERK1/2 and p38, was found in RAW-GR(−) cells. In conclusion, we provided the novel evidences that GC/GR inhibited the growth of RAW264.7 cells and mouse peritoneal macrophage, and the antiproliferative effect of GC/GR on these cells was at least in part a result from GC/GR-induced SIRPA expression. Up-regulation of CDK2, cyclinD1, and cyclinB1 was also related to the increased proliferation of RAW-GR(−) cells.

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Xueting Wang, Zhiran Zou, Zhihui Yang, Shan Jiang, Yapeng Lu, Dan Wang, Zhangji Dong, Sha Xu, and Li Zhu

Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF1) is a critical transcription factor involved in cell response to hypoxia. Under physiological conditions, its ‘a’ subunit is rapidly degraded in most tissues except testes. HIF1 is stably expressed in Leydig cells, which are the main source of testosterone for male, and might bind to the promoter region of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR), which is necessary for the testosterone synthesis, according to software analysis. This study aims to identify the binding sites of HIF1 on Star promoter and its transcriptional regulation of STAR to affect testosterone synthesis. Testosterone level and steroid synthesis-related proteins were determined in male Balb/C mice exposed to hypoxia (8% O2). While HIF1 was upregulated, the testosterone level was significantly decreased. This was further confirmed by in vitro experiments with rat primary Leydig cells or TM3 cells exposed to hypoxia (1% O2), CoCl2 or DFX to raise HIF1. The decline of testosterone was reversed by pregnenolone but not cAMP, indicating the cholesterol transport disorder as the main cause. In agreement, STAR expression level was decreased in response to HIF1, while 3b-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, 17b-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and p450scc did not exhibit significant changes. By ChIP, EMSA supershift and dual-luciferase reporter assays, HIF1 was found to bind to the Star promoter region and repress the expression of STAR. Mutation assays identified three HIF1-binding sites on mouse Star promoter. These findings indicate that HIF1 represses STAR transcription through directly binding to the Staar promoter at −2082/−2078, −2064/−2060 and −1910/−1906, leading to the negative regulation of testosterone synthesis.

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Lijuan Yin, Fang Fang, Xinglei Song, Yan Wang, Gaoxiang Huang, Jie Su, Ning Hui, and Jian Lu

Cell adhesion to extracellular matrix (ECM) is controlled by multiple signaling molecules and intracellular pathways, and is pivotal for survival and growth of cells from most solid tumors. Our previous works demonstrated that dexamethasone (DEX) significantly enhances cell adhesion and cell resistance to chemotherapeutics by increasing the levels of integrin β1, α4, and α5 in human ovarian cancer cells. However, it is unclear whether the components of ECM or other membrane molecules are also involved in the pro-adhesive effect of DEX in ovarian cancer cells. In this study, we demonstrated that the treatment of cells with DEX did not change the expression of collagens (I, III, and IV), laminin, CD44, and its principal ligand hyaluronan (HA), but significantly increased the levels of intracellular and secreted fibronectin (FN). Inhibiting the expression of FN with FN1 siRNA or blocking CD44, another FN receptor, with CD44 blocking antibody significantly attenuated the pro-adhesion of DEX, indicating that upregulation of FN mediates the pro-adhesive effect of DEX by its interaction with CD44 besides integrin β1. Moreover, DEX significantly enhanced cell resistance to the chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel (PTX) by activating PI-3K-Akt pathway. Finally, we found that DEX also significantly upregulated the expression of MUC1, a transmembrane glycoprotein. Inhibiting the expression of MUC1 with MUC1 siRNA significantly attenuated the DEX-induced effects of pro-adhesion, Akt-activation, and pro-survival. In conclusion, these results provide new data that upregulation of FN and MUC1 by DEX contributes to DEX-induced pro-adhesion and protects ovarian cancer cells from chemotherapy.

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Haiqin Wang, Li Nian, Zhonghua Li, and Changhui Lu

Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count (HELLP) syndrome is a life-threatening pregnancy complication. Though there are several medications widely used to treat HELLP syndrome, delivery is the only efficient treatment. The goal of the present study was to investigate the effects of platelet-derived growth factor-D (PDGF-D), a newly identified PDGF, in a rat model of HELLP syndrome which was accomplished by sFlt-1 and sEng injection. The expression levels of PDGF-D in pregnant women diagnosed with HELLP syndrome was determined. A HELLP rat model was established and the PDGF-D expression level in the plasma and the placenta tissue was evaluated. To evaluate the effects of PDGF-D in HELLP syndrome model, siPDGF-D was injected into the rats and the HELLP syndrome-related parameters were measured. The levels of inflammatory cytokines and PDGF-D were determined by ELISA. The oxidative stress activities in the plasma were also determined. Furthermore, the expression of PDGF-D/PDGFR-β/nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) p65 in placenta tissues was evaluated by Western blotting. Compared to the normal pregnant (NP) group, the levels of PDGF-D were augmented regardless of species. Knockdown of PDGF-D can result in the alleviation of HELLP syndrome development and progression in the HELLP rat model. Importantly, as a result of PDGF-D knockdown, the serum levels of inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress activities were modulated, and the phosphorylation of PDGFR-β and NF-κB p65 in placenta tissue was inhibited. Taking together, our findings indicate that targeting PDGF-D could be used as a novel strategy to treat patients with HELLP syndrome.

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Feng Wang, Lu Wang, Yifeng Wang, Dai Li, Tianpeng Hu, Manyi Sun, and Ping Lei

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) improves cognitive function, but its mechanism has not been elucidated. The aim of the study was to explore whether IGF-1 exerted its protective effect on cognitive function and anxiety behavior through the activation of PI3K/Akt/CREB pathway in high-fat diet rats. Neuronal cells HT22 were treated with nothing, IGF-1, IGF-1 + LY294002 or IGF-1 + 666-15. Expressions of p-PI3K, p-Akt and p-CREB were measured using Western blot analysis. Thirty C57BL/6J rats were used. After feeding with high-fat diet, normal saline, PEG-IGF-1, PEG-IGF-1 + LY294002 or PEG-IGF-1 + 666-15 was treated. Cognitive function and anxiety behavior were assessed by Morris water maze and open field test. Several inflammation and oxidative stress biomarkers were measured using recognized methods. Expressions of p-PI3K and p-CREB were also measured using Western blot analysis. After IGF-1 treatment in cells, expressions of p-PI3K, p-Akt and p-CREB were increased. Furthermore, LY294002 downregulated the expressions of these three proteins, but 666-15 only inhibited the expression of CREB in the cells. Compared with the control rats, we found abnormalities of cognitive function and anxiety behavior, inhibition of PI3K/Akt/CREB pathway and increase of oxidative stress and inflammation in high-fat diet rats. After PEG-IGF-1 treatment, the changes in high-fat diet rats were reversed. Then, we blocked the pathway and found that these blockers attenuated the protective effects of PEG-IGF-1. In conclusion, IGF-1 improved cognitive function and anxiety behavior in high-fat diet rats and inhibited inflammation and oxidative stress in hippocampus tissue through the activation of PI3K/Akt/CREB pathway.

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Qianqian Lu, Yuying Yang, Sheng Jia, Shaoqiang Zhao, Bin Gu, Peng Lu, Yang He, Ruixin Liu, Jiqiu Wang, Guang Ning, and Qinyun Ma

Appetite is tightly controlled by neural and hormonal signals in animals. In general, steroid receptor coactivator 1 (SRC1) enhances steroid hormone signalling in energy balance and serves as a common coactivator of several steroid receptors, such as oestrogen and glucocorticoid receptors. However, the key roles of SRC1 in energy balance remain largely unknown. We first confirmed that SRC1 is abundantly expressed in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC), which is a critical centre for regulating feeding and energy balance; it is further co-localised with agouti-related protein and proopiomelanocortin neurons in the arcuate nucleus. Interestingly, local SRC1 expression changes with the transition between sufficiency and deficiency of food supply. To identify its direct role in appetite regulation, we repressed SRC1 expression in the hypothalamic ARC using lentivirus shRNA and found that SRC1 deficiency significantly promoted food intake and body weight gain, particularly in mice fed with a high-fat diet. We also found the activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signalling pathway due to SRC1 deficiency. Thus, our results suggest that SRC1 in the ARC regulates appetite and body weight and that AMPK signalling is involved in this process. We believe that our study results have important implications for recognising the overlapping and integrating effects of several steroid hormones/receptors on accurate appetite regulation in future studies.

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Yuan Pan, Chong Han, Chunlin Wang, Guohan Hu, Chun Luo, Xiaoqiang Gan, Fenglin Zhang, Yicheng Lu, and Xuehua Ding

ADAM10 is a metalloproteinase that regulates invasiveness in many tumors. Here, we found that ADAM10 expression correlates with the invasiveness of pituitary adenomas and contributes to invasion by cleaving L1 and CD44. In high-grade pituitary adenoma patients, ADAM10 expression levels were found to be elevated compared with low-grade pituitary adenomas. In a phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)-stimulated pituitary adenoma cell line, AtT-20 cells, we found that the cleavage of L1 was correspondingly enhanced with the increased interaction between Src and Shc. Increases in PMA-induced L1 cleavage and the phosphorylation of residue 418 of Src (418Src) were promoted by overexpression of ADAM10. Inversely, knockdown of Adam10 suppressed PMA-induced L1 cleavage and the phosphorylation of Src, which was blocked by the Src inhibitor PP2 and the MEK inhibitor PD98059. On the other hand, calcium flux activation in AtT-20 cells resulted in increased CD44 cleavage, with reduction of the interaction between calmodulin and ADAM10. The induction of enhanced CD44 cleavage by calcium flux activation was inhibited by knockdown of Adam10. In addition, Adam10 knockdown repressed AtT-20 cell migration, which was reversed by CD44EXT (CD44 ectodomain cleavage). Collectively, these data indicated that ADAM10 facilitated cell migration through modulation of CD44 and L1 cleavage.