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Gregory S Y Ong and Morag J Young

The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and mineralocorticoids regulate epithelial handling of electrolytes, and induces diverse effects on other tissues. Traditionally, the effects of MR were ascribed to ligand–receptor binding and activation of gene transcription. However, the MR also utilises a number of intracellular signalling cascades, often by transactivating unrelated receptors, to change cell function more rapidly. Although aldosterone is the physiological mineralocorticoid, it is not the sole ligand for MR. Tissue-selective and mineralocorticoid-specific effects are conferred through the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2, cellular redox status and properties of the MR itself. Furthermore, not all aldosterone effects are mediated via MR, with implication of the involvement of other membrane-bound receptors such as GPER. This review will describe the ligands, receptors and intracellular mechanisms available for mineralocorticoid hormone and receptor signalling and illustrate their complex interactions in physiology and disease.

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Jyotsna B Pippal and Peter J Fuller

The signature action of aldosterone in the regulation of electrolyte and fluid balance is well established. However, the role of aldosterone as an important contributor to morbidity and mortality in heart failure has gained a heightened interest in recent years, but the mechanisms of this action are not well understood. Aldosterone is the principal physiological ligand for the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), a ligand-activated transcription factor, that also binds to the physiological glucocorticoid, cortisol. Both classes of hormones bind with similar affinity to the MR, but the molecular basis of selective and tissue-specific effects of MR ligands is not yet fully documented. The structural and functional determinants of MR function are described and their significance is discussed.

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C Delarue, JM Conlon, I Remy-Jouet, A Fournier and H Vaudry

Besides the classical corticotropic hormones, ACTH and angiotensin II, various regulatory peptides produced by the adrenal gland are thought to participate in the control of corticosteroid secretion. Here, we review the evidence that endothelins (ETs) synthesized within the adrenal cortex may act as autocrine and/or paracrine factors to regulate adrenocortical cell activity. The expression of ETs has been detected in normal, hyperplastic and neoplastic adrenocortical cells. The occurrence of ET receptors has been described in the different zones of the cortex. ETs stimulate the secretion of both glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, and modulate the proliferation of adrenocortical cells. The effects of ETs on steroidogenic cells are mediated through the activation of various signaling mechanisms including stimulation of phospholipase C, phospholipase A2 and adenylyl cyclase activity, as well as calcium influx through plasma channels. These observations suggest that locally produced ETs may play an important role in the regulation of corticosteroid secretion and in the control of mitogenesis in normal and tumoral adrenocortical cells.

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S C Low, K E Chapman, C R W Edwards and J R Seckl

ABSTRACT

11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11β-HSD) catalyses the metabolism of corticosterone to inert 11-dehydrocorticosterone, thus preventing glucocorticoid access to otherwise non-selective renal mineralocorticoid receptors (MRs), producing aldosterone selectivity in vivo. At least two isoforms of 11β-HSD exist. One isoform (11β-HSD1) has been purified from rat liver and an encoding cDNA cloned from a rat liver library. Transfection of rat 11β-HSD1 cDNA into amphibian cells with a mineralocorticoid phenotype encodes 11 β-reductase activity (activation of inert 11-dehydrocorticosterone) suggesting that 11β-HSD1 does not have the necessary properties to protect renal MRs from exposure to glucocorticoids. This function is likely to reside in a second 11β-HSD isoform. 11β-HSD1 is co-localized with glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) and may modulate glucocorticoid access to this receptor type. To examine the predominant direction of 11β-HSD1 activity in intact mammalian cells, and the possible role of 11β-HSD in regulating glucocorticoid access to GRs, we transfected rat 11β-HSD1 cDNA into a mammalian kidney-derived cell system (COS-7) which has little endogenous 11β-HSD activity or mRNA expression.

Homogenates of COS-7 cells transfected with increasing amounts of 11β-HSD cDNA exhibited a dose-related increase in 11 β-dehydrogenase activity. In contrast, intact cells did not convert corticosterone to 11-dehydrocorticosterone over 24 h, but showed a clear dose-related 11β-reductase activity, apparent within 4 h of addition of 11-dehydrocorticosterone to the medium. To demonstrate that this reflected a change in functional intracellular glucocorticoids, COS-7 cells were co-transfected with an expression vector encoding GR and a glucocorticoid-inducible MMTV-LTR luciferase reporter construct, with or without 11β-HSD. Corticosterone induced MMTV-LTR luciferase expression in the presence or absence of 11β-HSD. 11-Dehydrocorticosterone was without activity in the absence of 11β-HSD, but induced MMTV-LTR luciferase activity in the presence of 11β-HSD. These results indicate that rat 11β-HSD1 can behave exclusively as a reductase in intact mammalian cells. Thus in some tissues in vivo, 11β-HSD1 may regulate ligand access to GRs by reactivating inert glucocorticoids.

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M Castrén, T Trapp, B Berninger, E Castrén and F Holsboer

ABSTRACT

We investigated the mechanisms by which corticosteroids regulate the expression of the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in neurones. Aldosterone and dexamethasone produced a dose-dependent increase of MR mRNA levels in cultured primary hippocampal neurones. Transient transfection of neuroblastoma cells showed that corticosteroids directly activate the rat MR promoter, indicating that the steroid-induced increase in the MR mRNA concentration is at least partially transcriptional. Progressive 5′ deletions of the MR promoter sequence revealed that the promoter induction cannot be assigned to a single element. An oligonucleotide comprising a consensus half-glucocorticoid responsive element located at – 319 bp in the MR promoter stimulated the corticosteroid-induced activation of the heterologous promoter. Cloning three of these enhancers in tandem greatly potentiated the responses to glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, suggesting that although this element is a weak enhancer it can, in combination with other enhancer elements, induce MR gene expression by both types of corticosteroid receptors.

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Andrea Armani, Vincenzo Marzolla, Andrea Fabbri and Massimiliano Caprio

In addition to the well-documented expression and activity of the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in the kidney, in the last decade research on MR has also revealed its important role in regulating functions of extrarenal tissues, including adipose tissue, where MR is involved in adipocyte fundamental processes such as differentiation, autophagy and adipokine secretion. MR expression is increased in adipose tissue of murine models of obesity and in obese human subjects, suggesting that over-activation of the mineralocorticoid signaling leads to dysfunctional adipocyte and associated metabolic disorders. Notably, pharmacological blockade of MR prevents metabolic dysfunctions observed in obese mice and suggests a potential therapeutic use of MR antagonists in the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome. However, the molecular pathways affected by MR blockade have been poorly investigated. This review summarizes the functions of MR in the adipocyte, discusses potential signaling pathways mediating MR action, and describes post-translational modifications regulating its activity.

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MI McCarthy

Almost all major causes of ill-health and premature death in human societies worldwide - including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many infectious diseases - are, at least in part, genetically determined. Typically, risk of succumbing to one of these illnesses is thought to depend on both the individual repertoire of variation within a number of key susceptibility genes and the history of exposure to relevant environmental factors. For many of these conditions, the molecular basis of disease pathogenesis remains obscure. This represents a major obstacle to development of improved, rational strategies for disease treatment, prevention and eradication. It is easy therefore to appreciate the importance attached to efforts to deliver more comprehensive understanding of the molecular basis of disease pathogenesis. Nor is it hard to understand that identification of major susceptibility genes should highlight those components of molecular machinery that are critical for the preservation of normal health. The benefits promised are great, but progress to gene identification in multifactorial traits has been rather disappointing to date. Why is this? This review aims to answer this question by describing current and future approaches to gene discovery in multifactorial traits. The examples quoted will mostly relate to type 2 diabetes, but the issues and approaches are generic, and apply equally to other multifactorial traits in the endocrine and metabolic arena - type 1 diabetes; obesity; hyperlipidaemia; autoimmune thyroid disease; polycystic ovarian syndrome - and beyond.

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R. M. Haigh, C. T. Jones and G. Milligan

ABSTRACT

Glucocorticoids are known to influence cardiovascular sensitivity to catecholamines but the molecular mechanisms are undefined. We recently showed that glucocorticoids control the coupling of adrenergic receptors to G protein. Alterations in the amount of G protein is one mechanism by which receptor-G protein coupling may be controlled. Therefore, we set out to measure the levels of G proteins in aorta from normal, adrenalectomized and dexamethasonetreated adrenalectomized rats. G proteins were measured in plasma membrane preparations by immunoblotting and horseradish peroxidase staining. After adrenalectomy there was a 53% (n = 5) decrease in the density of staining for Gi (ANOVA; P<0.05 compared to controls). Conversely, there was a 210% (n = 5) increase in the density of staining for Gs. The levels of Go and the β-subunit of G proteins were not changed by adrenalectomy. Dexamethasone-replacement treatment after adrenalectomy returned Gi and Gs close to control values. Go remained unaltered compared to controls but was 24% (n=3) less than the adrenalectomized values (ANOVA; P<0.05). The levels of β-subunit after dexamethasone replacement were significantly greater (ANOVA; P<0.05) than both the controls and adrenalectomized values. These results show that glucocorticoids can differentially regulate the amounts of G proteins in rat aorta as in other tissues. This may be an important mechanism by which steroids control receptor-G protein coupling and hence transmembrane signalling pathways in vascular smooth muscle.

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R. M. Haigh and C. T. Jones

ABSTRACT

Glucocorticoids are known to have marked effects on blood pressure regulation, predominantly through altering cardiovascular sensitivity to noradrenaline. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this action remain unclear. As part of our studies into these we have measured α1-adrenergic receptor binding using the ligand [3H]prazosin in plasma membrane fractions of aortas prepared from control, adrenalectomized and dexamethasone-treated adrenalectomized rats. In controls there were 50±8 (s.e.m.; n=6) fmol α1-adrenergic receptors/mg membrane protein (Bmax) with a dissociation constant (K d) of 0·52±0·10 nm (n=6). Adrenalectomy 8 days before tissue preparation caused a 40% decrease in Bmax and a 60% decrease in K d. Dexamethasone replacement after adrenalectomy returned these values close to those of controls. Noradrenaline competed for the [3H]prazosin-binding sites. Computer analysis by a non-linear curve-fitting program (LIGAND) showed that noradrenaline binding was to a heterogeneous population of high- and low-affinity receptors with K d values of 1·87±0·73 μm and 0·48±0·12 mm (n=5) respectively. Guanosine thiotriphosphate (GTP[S]) caused the conversion of high-affinity to low-affinity binding, consistent with the model of the high-affinity sites being coupled to a G protein. After adrenalectomy, noradrenaline binding was to a homogeneous population of low-affinity receptors; hence, the effect of GTP[S] was no longer apparent, suggesting that under these conditions the α1-adrenergic receptors were unable to couple to a G protein. The two-site model of binding and GTP[S] effect was returned by dexamethasone treatment. These data provide evidence that glucocorticoids not only modulate the number of α1-adrenergic receptors on vascular smooth muscle, but also cause disruptions in receptor—G protein coupling. This may be an important mechanism by which glucocorticoids exert their effect on cardiovascular sensitivity.

Free access

S Najib and V Sanchez-Margalet

Hyperhomocysteinemia and insulin resistance are independent factors for cardiovascular disease. Most of the angiotoxic effects of homocysteine are related to the formation of homocysteine thiolactone and the consequent increase in oxidative stress. The oxidative stress has also been shown to impair insulin action, therefore leading to insulin resistance. In order to study a putative direct effect of homocysteine on insulin signaling, we have characterized the molecular counter-regulation of the early events in the signal transduction of the insulin receptor, and the metabolic end-point of glycogen synthesis. We employed HTC rat hepatoma cells transfected with the human insulin receptor. A 10 min exposure to homocysteine thiolactone (50 microM) resulted in a significant inhibition of insulin-stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of the insulin receptor beta-subunit and its substrates IRS-1 and p60-70, as well as their association with the p85 regulatory subunit of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase. These effects led to impairment of the insulin-stimulated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activity, which plays a central role in regulating insulin action. Thus, insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis was also inhibited by homocysteine thiolactone. To investigate whether oxidative stress was mediating the counter-regulatory effect of homocysteine thiolactone on insulin signaling, we preincubated the cells (5 min) with 250 microM glutathione prior to the incubation with homocysteine (10 min) and subsequent insulin challenge. Glutathione completely abolished the effects of homocysteine thiolactone on insulin-receptor signaling and restored the insulin-stimulated glycogen synthesis. In conclusion, these data suggest that homocysteine thiolactone impairs insulin signaling by a mechanism involving oxidative stress, leading to a defect in insulin action.