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Henrik Fagman and Mikael Nilsson

The thyroid develops from the foregut endoderm. Yet uncharacterized inductive signals specify endoderm progenitors to a thyroid cell fate that assembles in the pharyngeal floor from which the primordium buds and migrates to the final position of the gland. The morphogenetic process is regulated by both cell-autonomous (e.g. activated by NKX2-1, FOXE1, PAX8, and HHEX) and mesoderm-derived (e.g. mediated by TBX1 and fibroblast growth factors) mechanisms acting in concert to promote growth and survival of progenitor cells. The developmental role of TSH is limited to thyroid differentiation set to work after the gross anatomy of the gland is already sculptured. This review summarizes recent advances on the molecular genetics of thyroid morphogenesis put into context of endoderm developmental traits and highlights established and novel mechanisms of thyroid dysgenesis of potential relevance to congenital hypothyroidism in man.

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MJ Herrero-Turrion, RE Rodriguez, J Aijon and JM Lara

Using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization, the expression of the prolactin (PRL) gene was determined during development in gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) for the first time. The mRNA for PRL was detected from the second day of the larval stage onwards. This transcript was also located in the adenohypophysial cells, starting at four days post-hatching and was found to be pituitary-specific. Moreover, the possible involvement of PRL in asynchronous growth in the cultivation of gilthead sea bream was also examined. No differences in the distribution of PRL cells were observed in the three sizes of juvenile gilthead sea bream studied. These results suggest that the transcription of PRL is involved in the early development stages of sea bream and that the asynchronous growth-related changes are not due to distinct distribution of PRL cells.

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OK Oz, R Millsaps, R Welch, J Birch and JE Zerwekh

Aromatase catalyzes the synthesis of estrogen from its androgen precursors. Estrogen is known to be important in regulating long bone growth and epiphyseal plate closure. To assess whether there may be growth plate-specific production of estrogen, we performed reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to determine whether aromatase transcripts are present in the human growth plate. Immunohistochemistry was also employed to identify the specific sites of expression. Growth plates were obtained from an adolescent male and female undergoing ephysectomy to counter premature growth plate closure in the opposite leg. Aromatase transcripts were detected in RNA preparations from both growth plates. The aromatase protein was mainly expressed in the zone of maturation and the hypertrophic zone, with greatest expression in the latter. Since estrogen receptors are known to be expressed in chondrocytes, this data is consistent with a role for local estrogen production in the autocrine/paracrine control of long bone growth and growth plate maturation.

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Pierre Poinsot, Martin Schwarzer, Noël Peretti and François Leulier

In most animal species, postnatal growth is controlled by conserved insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling. In mammals, juvenile growth is characterized by a longitudinal bone growth resulting from the ossification of the growth plate. This ossification is under IGF1 influence through endocrine and paracrine mechanisms. Moreover, the nutritional status has been largely described as an important factor influencing the insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling. It is now well established that the gut microbiota modulates the nutrient availability of its host. Hence, studies of the interaction between nutritional status, gut microbiota and bone growth have recently emerged. Here, we review recent findings using experimental models about the impact of gut bacteria on the somatotropic axis and its consequence on the bone growth. We also discuss the perspectives of these studies in opening an entire field for clinical interventions.

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Valeria Giandomenico, Tao Cui, Lars Grimelius, Kjell Öberg, Giuseppe Pelosi and Apostolos V Tsolakis

Somatostatin receptors (SSTRs) may be used in lung carcinoids (LCs) for diagnosis and therapy, although additional targets are clearly warranted. This study aimed to investigate whether olfactory receptor 51E1 (OR51E1) may be a potential target for LCs. OR51E1 coding sequence was analyzed in LC cell lines, NCI-H727 and NCI-H720. OR51E1 transcript expression was investigated in LC cell lines and frozen specimens by quantitative real-time PCR. OR51E1, SSTR2, SSTR3, and SSTR5 expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry on paraffin-embedded sections of 73 typical carcinoids (TCs), 14 atypical carcinoids (ACs), and 11 regional/distant metastases and compared with OctreoScan data. Immunohistochemistry results were rendered semiquantitatively on a scale from 0 to 3, taking into account the cellular compartmentalization (membrane vs cytoplasm) and the percentage of tumor cells (<50 vs >50%). Our results showed that WT OR51E1 transcript was expressed in both LC cell lines. OR51E1 mRNA was expressed in 9 out of 12 TCs and 7 out of 9 ACs (P=NS). Immunohistochemically, OR51E1, SSTR2, SSTR3, and SSTR5 were detected in 85, 71, 25, and 39% of TCs and in 86, 79, 43, and 36% of ACs respectively. OR51E1 immunohistochemical scores were higher or equal than those of SSTRs' in 79% of TCs and 86% of ACs. Furthermore, in the LC cases where all SSTR subtypes were lacking, membrane OR51E1 expression was detected in 10 out of 17 TCs and 1 out of 2 ACs. Moreover, higher OR51E1 immunohistochemical scores were detected in 5 out of 6 OctreoScan-negative LC lesions. Therefore, the high expression of OR51E1 in LCs makes it a potential novel diagnostic target in SSTR-negative tumors.

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Nobuko Kimura, Nobuko Takamatsu, Yoshio Yaoita, R Yoshiyuki Osamura and Narimichi Kimura

The somatostatin receptor subtype 2 (sst2) mediates inhibition of hormone secretion and cell proliferation, and modulates neurotransmission. Its expression is widespread in various normal tissues and many malignant cells, and is up-regulated by estrogen in breast cancer cells. This study was undertaken to investigate molecular mechanism of transcriptional regulation of the human sst2 gene, for which an additional exon (exon 1) in the 5′-untranslated region was recently found. Transient transfection and mutational analysis showed that the immediate 5′-upstream region containing two Sp1 (−54/−45 and −88/−79) and an ATF/CRE (−69/−62) sites provided full promoter activity. An EMSA together with transfection analysis in Sp1-deficient Drosophila Schneider line (SL2) cells showed that Sp1 acted on the proximal Sp1 site, whereas Sp3, Sp1, and Sp2 did on the distal Sp1 site. Activating transcription factor-2 (ATF)-2, c-Jun, and cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB) interacted with the ATF/CRE site. Transcriptional activation by estrogen occurred through two different regions; one included these proximal elements and the other existed in the upstream region containing estrogen response element (ERE) half-site (−348/−344) and GC-rich sequence (−447/−414). This upstream estrogen responsiveness was observed in a human breast cancer T47D cell, but not in GH3 or estrogen receptor α (ERα) -expressing HeLa cells, and was potentiated by overexpression of ERα or ERβ, whose binding to the ERE half-site was verified by EMSAs. A chromatin immunoprecipitation assay suggested that ERα was recruited to the ERE half-site after estrogen treatment in T47D cells. The present results should provide a molecular basis for transcriptional regulation in a variety of physiological and pathological contexts of sst2-expressing tissues.

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Alison L Hagemeister, Jeffrey D Kittilson, Heather E Bergan and Mark A Sheridan

Previously, we reported that extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and protein kinase B (Akt), a downstream target of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), mediated somatostatin (SS) inhibition of GH receptor, IGF1, and IGF1 receptor expression. In this study, we used Chinese hamster ovary-K1 cells that stably transfected individually with trout SS receptors (SSTR1A, SSTR1B, and SSTR2) to elucidate receptor–effector pathway linkages. SS induced ERK and Akt activation in a time- and concentration-related manner in all SSTR-expressing cells; however, the PI3K/Akt pathway was activated to a greater extent through SSTR1A than through either SSTR1B or SSTR2, whereas the ERK pathway was activated to a greater extent though SSTR2 than through either SSTR1A or SSTR1B. Although the ERK pathway inhibitor U0126 had no effect on Akt activation, the PI3K inhibitor LY294002 reduced ERK activation to near control levels in all SSTR-expressing cell lines, suggesting some cross talk between the pathways, possibly at the level of c-Raf, the phosphorylation of which also was induced by SS via each SSTR. Pertussis toxin (PTX) completely abolished SS-induced activation of ERK and Akt in SSTR1A-, SSTR1B-, and SSTR2-expressing cells, suggesting that these receptors link to the ERK and PI3K/Akt pathways via PTX-sensitive G-proteins. SS-induced activation of Elk1, Stat3, and C/EBPβ also was mediated by each of the trout SSTRs. These findings establish important receptor–effector pathway linkages for fish SSTRs and provide insight into the molecular mechanisms by which SSs may elicit diverse physiological effects in target cells.

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Hervé Tostivint, Daniel Ocampo Daza, Christina A Bergqvist, Feng B Quan, Marion Bougerol, Isabelle Lihrmann and Dan Larhammar

Somatostatin (SS) and urotensin II (UII) are members of two families of structurally related neuropeptides present in all vertebrates. They exert a large array of biological activities that are mediated by two families of G-protein-coupled receptors called SSTR and UTS2R respectively. It is proposed that the two families of peptides as well as those of their receptors probably derive from a single ancestral ligand–receptor pair. This pair had already been duplicated before the emergence of vertebrates to generate one SS peptide with two receptors and one UII peptide with one receptor. Thereafter, each family expanded in the three whole-genome duplications (1R, 2R, and 3R) that occurred during the evolution of vertebrates, whereupon some local duplications and gene losses occurred. Following the 2R event, the vertebrate ancestor is deduced to have possessed three SS (SS1, SS2, and SS5) and six SSTR (SSTR1–6) genes, on the one hand, and four UII (UII, URP, URP1, and URP2) and five UTS2R (UTS2R1–5) genes, on the other hand. In the teleost lineage, all these have been preserved with the exception of SSTR4. Moreover, several additional genes have been gained through the 3R event, such as SS4 and a second copy of the UII, SSTR2, SSTR3, and SSTR5 genes, and through local duplications, such as SS3. In mammals, all the genes of the SSTR family have been preserved, with the exception of SSTR6. In contrast, for the other families, extensive gene losses occurred, as only the SS1, SS2, UII, and URP genes and one UTS2R gene are still present.

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Purificación Gómez, Francisco Pérez-Jiménez, Carmen Marín, Juan Antonio Moreno, María José Gómez, Cecilia Bellido, Pablo Pérez-Martínez, Francisco Fuentes, Juan Antonio Paniagua and José López-Miranda

Impaired insulin action has been associated with diabetes, dyslipidemia and atherosclerotic vascular disease. The expression of insulin resistance results from the interaction of environmental and genetic factors. Human hepatic lipase (HL) is a lipolytic enzyme that plays a role in the metabolism of several lipoproteins, while insulin up-regulates the activity of HL via insulin-responsive elements in the HL promoter. We have examined the influence of −514 C/T polymorphism in the hepatic lipase gene promoter on insulin sensitivity in 59 healthy young subjects (30 males and 29 females). The volunteers were subjected to three dietary periods, each lasting four weeks. During the first period all subjects consumed a saturated fat (SFA)-enriched diet with 38% as fat (20% SFA, 12% monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and 6% polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)). In the second and third dietary periods, a randomized crossover design was used, consisting of a low fat, high carbohydrate diet (CHO diet) (< 10% SFA, 12% MUFA and 6% PUFA) and a high-MUFA, or Mediterranean diet, with < 10% SFA, 22% MUFA and 6% PUFA. We determined the in vivo insulin resistance using the insulin suppression test with somatostatin. Steady-state plasma glucose (SSPG) concentrations (a measure of insulin sensitivity) were significantly higher in men carriers of the −514T allele after the consumption of the SFA diet than after the CHO diet and the Mediterranean diet. This effect was not observed in women. Moreover, there were no significant differences in insulin sensitivity after the three diets in men and women with the CC genotype. In summary, our results show an improvement in insulin sensitivity in men with the −514T allele of the HL promoter polymorphism, when MUFA and carbohydrates are consumed instead of SFA fat.

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Pierre Moulin, Yves Guiot, Jean-Christophe Jonas, Jacques Rahier, Olivier Devuyst and Jean-Claude Henquin

Na+/H+ exchangers (NHE) constitute a family of membrane antiporters that contribute to the regulation of cellular pH and volume in many tissues, including pancreatic islets. We investigated the molecular identity of NHE in rodent and human endocrine pancreas, and determined its cellular and subcellular localization. NHE1 was the most abundantly expressed isoform in rat islets, and was also expressed in mouse and human islets. By western blot, an antiserum raised against the C-terminus end of NHE1 confirmed the presence of a ~100 kDa protein corresponding to NHE1 in islets and unexpectedly unveiled the existence of a ~65 kDa cross-reactive NHE1-related protein. By immunohistochemistry, the antiserum labelled the membranes of pancreatic acini and ducts, but also diffusely stained the cytoplasm of insulin, glucagon and somatostatin cells as well as endocrine cells of the adrenal medulla. Electron microscopy localized the NHE1 immunoreactivity in the membrane of secretory granules, an unexpected finding supported by a decrease in immunohistochemical signal in degranulated β-cells. Islets of Slc9A1 swe/swe mice, which lack full NHE1 protein, were found to express an mRNA corresponding to the 3′ end of NHE1 as well as the ~65 kDa protein. They still showed the cytoplasmic labelling but no plasma membrane was stained. We conclude that both the full-length and the shorter-splice variant of NHE1 are expressed in all cell types of the endocrine pancreas and in the adrenal medulla of rodents and humans. The complete protein is addressed to the plasma membrane and the shorter one to the membrane of secretory granules where its function remains to be established.