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Yangli Xie, Siru Zhou, Hangang Chen, Xiaolan Du and Lin Chen

Skeletons are formed through two distinct developmental actions, intramembranous ossification and endochondral ossification. During embryonic development, most bone is formed by endochondral ossification. The growth plate is the developmental center for endochondral ossification. Multiple signaling pathways participate in the regulation of endochondral ossification. Fibroblast growth factor (FGF)/FGF receptor (FGFR) signaling has been found to play a vital role in the development and maintenance of growth plates. Missense mutations in FGFs and FGFRs can cause multiple genetic skeletal diseases with disordered endochondral ossification. Clarifying the molecular mechanisms of FGFs/FGFRs signaling in skeletal development and genetic skeletal diseases will have implications for the development of therapies for FGF-signaling-related skeletal dysplasias and growth plate injuries. In this review, we summarize the recent advances in elucidating the role of FGFs/FGFRs signaling in growth plate development, genetic skeletal disorders, and the promising therapies for those genetic skeletal diseases resulting from FGFs/FGFRs dysfunction. Finally, we also examine the potential important research in this field in the future.

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Juan Zhang, Yunting Zhou, Cheng Chen, Feiyuan Yu, Yun Wang, Jiang Gu, Lian Ma and Guyu Ho

Hypothalamic glucose-sensing neurons regulate the expression of genes encoding feeding-related neuropetides POMC, AgRP, and NPY – the key components governing metabolic homeostasis. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is postulated to be the molecular mediator relaying glucose signals to regulate the expression of these neuropeptides. Whether other signaling mediator(s) plays a role is not clear. In this study, we investigated the role of ERK1/2 using primary hypothalamic neurons as the model system. The primary neurons were differentiated from hypothalamic progenitor cells. The differentiated neurons possessed the characteristic neuronal cell morphology and expressed neuronal post-mitotic markers as well as leptin-regulated orexigenic POMC and anorexigenic AgRP/NPY genes. Treatment of cells with glucose dose-dependently increased POMC and decreased AgRP/NPY expression with a concurrent suppression of AMPK phosphorylation. In addition, glucose treatment dose-dependently increased the ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Blockade of ERK1/2 activity with its specific inhibitor PD98059 partially (approximately 50%) abolished glucose-induced POMC expression, but had little effect on AgRP/NPY expression. Conversely, blockade of AMPK activity with its specific inhibitor produced a partial (approximately 50%) reversion of low-glucose-suppressed POMC expression, but almost completely blunted the low-glucose-induced AgRP/NPY expression. The results indicate that ERK1/2 mediated POMC but not AgRP/NPY expression. Confirming the in vitro findings, i.c.v. administration of PD98059 in rats similarly attenuated glucose-induced POMC expression in the hypothalamus, but again had little effect on AgRP/NPY expression. The results are indicative of a novel role of ERK1/2 in glucose-regulated POMC expression and offer new mechanistic insights into hypothalamic glucose sensing.

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Xin-wei Chen, Ye-hong Li, Meng-jun Zhang, Zhou Chen, Dian-shan Ke, Ying Xue and Jian-ming Hou

Lactoferrin (LF) is an iron-binding glycoprotein that plays an important role in promoting bone formation and inhibiting bone resorption; however, its effects on senile osteoporosis remain unknown. This study aimed to investigate the effects and mechanism of LF intervention using a senile osteoporosis model (SAMP6 mice) and senescent osteoblasts. Micro-CT and hematoxylin and eosin staining demonstrated that the intragastric administration (2 g/kg/day) of LF could improve the bone mass and microstructure of SAMP6 mice. Furthermore, LF treatment improved bone metabolism and increased insulin-like growth factor 1 (Igf1) mRNA expression and activated phosphorylation status of AKT. Using osteoblasts passaged for ten generations as an in vitro senescence model, various markers associated with osteoblast formation and differentiation, as well as related indices of oxidative stress were analyzed. Our results revealed that after multiple generations, osteoblasts entered senescence, in conjunction with increased oxidative stress damage, reduced bone metabolism and enhanced expression of aging-related markers. While inhibiting oxidative stress, LF improved osteoblast proliferation by promoting the expression of osteogenesis markers, including alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, Igf1, bone gla protein (Bglap) and osteoprotegerin/receptor activator of nuclear factor-kB ligand (Opg/Rankl) mRNA and delayed senescence by decreasing the level of p16 and p21 expression. RNAI-mediated downregulation of IGF1 attenuated the effect of LF on osteogenesis. Therefore, the findings of the present study indicate that LF may promote osteogenesis via IGF1 signaling, thereby preventing senile osteoporosis.

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Lingxia Pang, Lianghui You, Chenbo Ji, Chunmei Shi, Ling Chen, Lei Yang, Fangyan Huang, Yahui Zhou, Jun Zhang, Xiaohui Chen and Xirong Guo

Excessive adipocyte differentiation and proliferation are closely associated with the onset of obesity, which has been partially linked to microRNA expression. In previous studies, using miRNA microarray screening, we found that miR-1275 was significantly decreased in human mature adipocytes. In this study, we examined the role of miR-1275 in adipogenesis. Our results indicated that miR-1275 can inhibit the differentiation of human visceral preadipocytes without affecting their proliferation. ELK1, an E-twenty-six (ETS)-domain transcription factor associated with adipocyte differentiation, was strongly suppressed by miR-1275 in human visceral adipocytes. This was demonstrated via a dual-luciferase reporter assay and pointed to ELK1 as a direct target of miR-1275. Furthermore, miR-1275 expression was significantly diminished in the visceral adipose tissue of overweight and obese human subjects accompanied by a negative correlation with body mass index. These results suggest that miR-1275 could play a future role in the management of obesity, as a novel therapeutic target or biomarker.

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Peng Zhang, Sheng Wang, Liang Wang, Bing Chen Shan, Hui Zhang, Fan Yang, Zhi Qiang Zhou, Xiao Wang, Ye Yuan and You Jia Xu

Postmenopausal osteoporosis is a global health issue. Although a lack of estrogen is considered the major reason for postmenopausal osteoporosis, other factors might also contribute the etiology of the disease. In previous reports, we and others proposed that iron accumulation after menopause accelerates osteoporosis, and here, we genetically modified the expression of an endogenous hormone, hepcidin, to modulate iron status in a mouse model. Our results show that hepcidin levels negatively correlate with bone loss in both knockout and overexpression (with ovariectomy) murine models. In addition, iron overload enhances reactive oxygen species (ROS) activity and attenuates the functions of primary osteoblasts, while iron depletion could reverse this phenomenon through inhibiting the functions of primary osteoclasts. Therefore, our results provide more evidence of the ‘iron accumulation’ hypothesis, which suggests that high iron levels are risk factors for osteoporosis, and the ‘Huang’s hypothesis’ that hepcidin is a potential drug target for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis.

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Kun Chen, Ji-Dan Zhou, Feng Zhang, Fang Zhang, Rui-Rui Zhang, Meng-Si Zhan, Xiao-Yin Tang, Bing Deng, Ming-Gang Lei and Yuan-Zhu Xiong

G protein-coupled receptor 120 (GPR120), an adipogenic receptor critical for the differentiation and maturation of adipocytes, plays an important role in controlling obesity in both humans and rodents and, thus, is an attractive target of obesity treatment studies. However, the mechanisms that regulate the expression of porcine GPR1 20 remain unclear. In this study, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) techniques were used to analyze and identify the binding of C/EBPβ (transcription factor CCAAT/enhancer binding protein beta) to the GPR120 promoter. C/EBPβ overexpression and RNA interference studies showed that C/EBPβ regulated GPR120 promoter activity and endogenous GPR120 expression. The binding site of C/EBPβ in the GPR120 promoter region from −101 to −87 was identified by promoter deletion analysis and site-directed mutagenesis. Overexpression of C/EBPβ increased endogenous GPR120 expression in pig kidney cells (PK). Furthermore, when endogenous C/EBPβ was knocked down, GPR120 mRNA and protein levels were decreased. The stimulatory effect of C/EBPβ on GPR120 transcription and its ability to bind the transcription factor-binding site were confirmed by luciferase, ChIP, and EMSA. Moreover, the mRNA and protein expression levels of C/EBPβ were induced by high fat diet feeding. Taken together, it can be concluded that C/EBPβ plays a vital role in regulating GPR120 transcription and suggests HFD-feeding induces GPR120 transcription by influencing C/EBPβ expression.

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Ting-Ting Zhou, Fei Ma, Xiao-Fan Shi, Xin Xu, Te Du, Xiao-Dan Guo, Gai-Hong Wang, Liang Yu, Vatcharin Rukachaisirikul, Li-Hong Hu, Jing Chen and Xu Shen

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a chronic metabolic disease with complicated pathogenesis and targeting gluconeogenesis inhibition is a promising strategy for anti-diabetic drug discovery. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are classified as distinct families by heterotrimeric G proteins, primarily including Gαs, Gαi and Gαq. Gαs-coupled GPCRs function potently in the regulation of hepatic gluconeogenesis by activating cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)/protein kinase A (PKA) pathway and Gαi-coupled GPCRs exhibit inhibitory effect on adenylyl cyclase and reduce intracellular cAMP level. However, little is known about the regulation of Gαq-coupled GPCRs in hepatic gluconeogenesis. Here, small-molecule 2-(2,4-dimethoxy-3-methylphenyl)-7-(thiophen-2-yl)-9-(trifluoromethyl)-2,3-dihydropyrido[3′,2′:4,5]thieno[3,2-d]pyrimidin-4(1H)-one (DMT) was determined to suppress hepatic glucose production and reduce mRNA levels of gluconeogenic genes. Treatment of DMT in db/db mice decreased fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) levels, while improved glucose tolerance and pyruvate tolerance. Mechanism study demonstrated that DMT-inhibited gluconeogenesis by regulating the Gαq/phospholipase C (PLC)/inositol-1,4,5-triphosphate receptor (IP3R)-mediated calcium (Ca2+)/calmodulin (CaM)/phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (AKT)/forkhead box protein O1 (FOXO1) signaling pathway. To our knowledge, DMT might be the first reported small molecule able to suppress hepatic gluconeogenesis by regulating Gαq signaling, and our current work has also highlighted the potential of DMT in the treatment of T2DM.