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Free access

Rosalia C M Simmen and Angela S Kelley

Enhanced inflammation and reduced apoptosis sustain the growth of endometriotic lesions. Alterations in the expression of estrogen receptor-alpha (ERα) and estrogen receptor-beta (ERβ) accompany the conversion of resident endometrial cells within the normal uterine environment to ectopic lesions located in extrauterine sites. Recent studies highlighted in this focused review linked ERβ to dysregulation of apoptotic and inflammatory networks involving novel interacting partners in endometriosis. The elucidation of these nongenomic actions of ERβ using human cells and mouse models is an important step in understanding key regulatory pathways that are disrupted leading to disease establishment and progression.

Free access

Emily Tubbs and Jennifer Rieusset

Beyond the maintenance of cellular homeostasis and the determination of cell fate, ER–mitochondria contact sites, defined as mitochondria-associated membranes (MAM), start to emerge as an important signaling hub that integrates nutrient and hormonal stimuli and adapts cellular metabolism. Here, we summarize the established structural and functional features of MAM and mainly focus on the latest breakthroughs highlighting a crucial role of organelle crosstalk in the control of metabolic homeostasis. Lastly, we discuss recent studies that have revealed the importance of MAM in not only metabolic diseases but also in other pathologies with disrupted metabolism, shedding light on potential common molecular mechanisms and leading hopefully to novel treatment strategies.

Restricted access

K Ekawa, M Nishi, S Ohagi, T Sanke and K Nanjo


Islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) was isolated from islet amyloid deposits in patients with insulinoma and pancreatic islets of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and several reports suggested that it may contribute to the development of NIDDM. IAPP is mainly expressed and synthesized in pancreatic B cells and cosecreted with insulin, so analysis of the transcriptional regulation of the IAPP gene would be helpful for the elucidation of pancreatic B cell specific gene expression. The mouse IAPP gene spans about 5·8 kb and, like the human and rat genes, it consists of three exons, and analysis of the promoter/enhancer activity of mouse IAPP gene reveals the region from − 171 to − 87 bp to be essential. Within this region, an E-box like sequence, CACCTG (− 122 to − 117 bp), and a TAAT-box like sequence, TTAATG (− 139 to − 134 bp), are thought to be important. The disruption of each sequence resulted in a severe decrease in promoter activity, although the decrease was less in the disruption of the E-box than that of TAAT-box like sequence, suggesting the latter is more important for IAPP gene transcription. Like the rat IAPP gene, the CCAAT-box, which does not exist in the human gene, was identified in the mouse gene, indicating the possibility of species difference in the IAPP gene transcriptional mechanism. An enhancer-like activity was also identified within intron 1, although further elucidation is necessary.

Free access

H Santti, L Mikkonen, A Anand, S Hirvonen-Santti, J Toppari, M Panhuysen, F Vauti, M Perera, G Corte, W Wurst, O A Jänne and J J Palvimo

PIASx belongs to the PIAS protein family, the members of which modulate activities of several transcription factors and act as E3 ligases in the sumoylation pathway. The PIASx gene is highly expressed in testis, suggesting a role in spermatogenesis. To investigate the function of PIASx in vivo, we have disrupted the PIASx gene in mice. Interestingly, the knockout mice were viable and fertile. Despite the normal fertility, the testis weight of the mutant animals was reduced and their number of apoptotic testicular cells was increased. Also, the sperm count of mutant mice tended to be reduced, but the quality of their sperm cells was normal. No significant changes were observed in the serum levels of LH and FSH or in the intratesticular testosterone concentration between the knockout animals and their wild-type littermates. Compensatory increases in other PIAS protein mRNAs were not observed in the knockout mice. These results imply that PIASx is required quantitatively rather than qualitatively for normal spermatogenesis.

Free access

J Jason Collier, Tim E Sparer, Michael D Karlstad and Susan J Burke

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes exhibit features of inflammation associated with alterations in pancreatic islet function and mass. These immunological disruptions, if unresolved, contribute to the overall pathogenesis of disease onset. This review presents the emerging role of pancreatic islet chemokine production as a critical factor regulating immune cell entry into pancreatic tissue as well as an important facilitator of changes in tissue resident leukocyte activity. Signaling through two specific chemokine receptors (i.e., CXCR2 and CXCR3) is presented to illustrate key points regarding ligand-mediated regulation of innate and adaptive immune cell responses. The prospective roles of chemokine ligands and their corresponding chemokine receptors to influence the onset and progression of autoimmune- and obesity-associated forms of diabetes are discussed.

Free access

Anthony H Tsang, Johanna L Barclay and Henrik Oster

In most species, endogenous circadian clocks regulate 24-h rhythms of behavior and physiology. Clock disruption has been associated with decreased cognitive performance and increased propensity to develop obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Many hormonal factors show robust diurnal secretion rhythms, some of which are involved in mediating clock output from the brain to peripheral tissues. In this review, we describe the mechanisms of clock–hormone interaction in mammals, the contribution of different tissue oscillators to hormonal regulation, and how changes in circadian timing impinge on endocrine signalling and downstream processes. We further summarize recent findings suggesting that hormonal signals may feed back on circadian regulation and how this crosstalk interferes with physiological and metabolic homeostasis.

Free access

Monica Fedele and Alfredo Fusco

Pituitary cells are particularly sensitive to alterations of the cell cycle machinery. In fact, mutations affecting expression of proteins critical for cell cycle progression, including retinoblastoma protein, cyclins D1 and D3, p16INK4A, and p27kip1, are frequent in human pituitary adenomas. Similarly, both targeted disruption and overexpression of either cell cycle inhibitors or activators, respectively, lead to the development of pituitary adenomas in mice. Recent evidence has added the high mobility group A (HMGA) proteins as a new class of cell cycle regulators that play significant roles in the pathways that lead to pituitary tumor evolution in both humans and experimental animal models. Here, we first review the role of the cell cycle in pituitary tumorigenesis, as witnessed by human pathology and transgenic mice; and then, we focus on HMGA proteins and their cell cycle-related role in pituitary tumorigenesis.

Free access

K Alexander Iwen, Rebecca Oelkrug and Georg Brabant

Thyroid hormones (TH) are of central importance for thermogenesis, energy homeostasis and metabolism. Here, we will discuss these aspects by focussing on the physiological aspects of TH-dependent regulation in response to cold exposure and fasting, which will be compared to alterations in primary hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. In particular, we will summarise current knowledge on regional thyroid hormone status in the central nervous system (CNS) and in peripheral cells. In contrast to hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, where parallel changes are observed, local alterations in the CNS differ to peripheral compartments when induced by cold exposure or fasting. Cold exposure is associated with low hypothalamic TH concentrations but increased TH levels in the periphery. Fasting results in a reversed TH pattern. Primary hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism disrupt these fine-tuned adaptive mechanisms and both, the hypothalamus and the periphery, will have the same TH status. These important mechanisms need to be considered when discussing thyroid hormone replacement and other therapeutical interventions to modulate TH status.

Open access

Marc Simard, Caroline Underhill and Geoffrey L Hammond

Corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) is a plasma carrier of glucocorticoids. Human and rat CBGs have six N-glycosylation sites. Glycosylation of human CBG influences its steroid-binding activity, and there are N-glycosylation sites in the reactive center loops (RCLs) of human and rat CBGs. Proteolysis of the RCL of human CBG causes a structural change that disrupts steroid binding. We now show that mutations of conserved N-glycosylation sites at N238 in human CBG and N230 in rat CBG disrupt steroid binding. Inhibiting glycosylation by tunicamycin also markedly reduced human and rat CBG steroid-binding activities. Deglycosylation of fully glycosylated human CBG or human CBG with only one N-glycan at N238 with Endo H-reduced steroid-binding affinity, while PNGase F-mediated deglycosylation does not, indicating that steroid binding is preserved by deamidation of N238 when its N-glycan is removed. When expressed in N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase-I-deficient Lec1 cells, human and rat CBGs, and a human CBG mutant with only one glycosylation site at N238, have higher (2–4 fold) steroid-binding affinities than when produced by sialylation-deficient Lec2 cells or glycosylation-competent CHO-S cells. Thus, the presence and composition of an N-glycan in this conserved position both appear to influence the steroid binding of CBG. We also demonstrate that neutrophil elastase cleaves the RCL of human CBG and reduces its steroid-binding capacity more efficiently than does chymotrypsin or the Pseudomonas aeruginosa protease LasB. Moreover, while glycosylation of N347 in the RCL limits these activities, N-glycans at other sites also appear to protect CBG from neutrophil elastase or chymotrypsin.

Free access

Xiang Zhang and Shuk-Mei Ho

Although genetics determines endocrine phenotypes, it cannot fully explain the great variability and reversibility of the system in response to environmental changes. Evidence now suggests that epigenetics, i.e. heritable but reversible changes in gene function without changes in nucleotide sequence, links genetics and environment in shaping endocrine function. Epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, histone modification, and microRNA, partition the genome into active and inactive domains based on endogenous and exogenous environmental changes and developmental stages, creating phenotype plasticity that can explain interindividual and population endocrine variability. We will review the current understanding of epigenetics in endocrinology, specifically, the regulation by epigenetics of the three levels of hormone action (synthesis and release, circulating and target tissue levels, and target-organ responsiveness) and the epigenetic action of endocrine disruptors. We will also discuss the impacts of hormones on epigenetics. We propose a three-dimensional model (genetics, environment, and developmental stage) to explain the phenomena related to progressive changes in endocrine functions with age, the early origin of endocrine disorders, phenotype discordance between monozygotic twins, rapid shifts in disease patterns among populations experiencing major lifestyle changes such as immigration, and the many endocrine disruptions in contemporary life. We emphasize that the key for understanding epigenetics in endocrinology is the identification, through advanced high-throughput screening technologies, of plasticity genes or loci that respond directly to a specific environmental stimulus. Investigations to determine whether epigenetic changes induced by today's lifestyles or environmental ‘exposures’ can be inherited and are reversible should open doors for applying epigenetics to the prevention and treatment of endocrine disorders.