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Free access

R Urbatzka, B Watermann, I Lutz and W Kloas

Sexual steroids have major regulatory functions in gonadal development, maturation of gametes and sexual differentiation in vertebrates. Previous studies in amphibians provided evidence that dihydrotestosterone and activity of 5-α reductases might play a significant role in androgen-mediated reproductive biology. To test the involvement of 5-α reductases in maturation of gametes in amphibians, Xenopus laevis was exposed to finasteride (FIN), a known inhibitor of 5-α reductase enzyme activity. In a long-term exposure from stage 46 to 66, severe disruption of spermatogenesis was observed in histological analysis of testes as detected by occurrence of empty spermatocysts, while ovaries remained unaffected. Real-time PCR analyses of male and female brain revealed an increase of LHβ mRNA and a decrease of FSHβ mRNA in males, suggesting a signalling on testes that could result in increased steroidogenesis and reduced Sertoli cell proliferation. Accordingly, the mRNA expression of P450 side chain cleavage enzyme and 5-α reductase type 2 was increased in testes, while no effects could be observed on steroidogenic genes in ovaries. A short-term exposure to testosterone, FIN and testosterone+FIN showed that transient effects of FIN targeted males selectively and, in particular, interfered with the hypothalamus–pituitary–gonad axis. Furthermore, a negative feedback of testosterone on LHβ was observed on males and females. This study provides evidence that exposure of X. laevis to FIN, an inhibitor of 5-α reductases, impaired spermatogenesis and involved sex-specific hypophyseal feedback mechanisms.

Free access

X Dong, Challis JR and SJ Lye

The human progesterone receptor (PR) exists in two major forms, PRA and PRB, which differentially regulate gene transcription in a cell- and promoter-specific manner. The molecular mechanisms underlying this differential transcriptional activity have been attributed to the presence of a unique AF3 domain within PRB that may result in the two isoforms adopting different protein conformations. We demonstrate here that in myometrial cells, PRB exhibits strong progesterone-dependent transcriptional activity that is dependent on the presence of two LXXLL motifs within the AF3 domain. In vitro and in vivo protein interaction assays indicate that these motifs mediate the direct interaction between the AF3 domain and C-PR in a progesterone-dependent manner. Mutation of either of the LXXLL motifs or deletion of the last 30 amino acids within the C-terminus disrupts this interaction and progesterone-dependent transcriptional activity of PRB. Members of the p160 family of co-activators (such as GRIP-1) also interact with C-PR through their LXXLL motifs. However, GRIP-1 does not compete with AF3 but rather acts to synergize these two transactivation domains. Our data suggest that a failure to form an appropriate AF3-C-terminus interaction results in an inability of co-activators to induce maximal PR-dependent transactivation. The absence of an AF3 domain within PRA may account for its inability to activate progesterone-responsive genes, as well as its actions as a dominant trans-repressor.

Free access

Tara Sabo-Attwood, Jason L Blum, Kevin J Kroll, Vishal Patel, Detlef Birkholz, Nancy J Szabo, Suzanne Z Fisher, Robert McKenna, Martha Campbell-Thompson and Nancy D Denslow


The estrogen receptor (ER) signaling cascade is a vulnerable target of exposure to environmental xenoestrogens, like nonylphenol (NP), which are causally associated with impaired health status. However, the impact of xenoestrogens on the individual receptor isotypes (α, βa, and βb) is not well understood. The goal of these studies was to determine the impact of NP on largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) ER isotype expression and activity. Here, we show that hepatic expression levels of three receptors are not equivalent in male largemouth bass exposed to NP by injection. Transcript levels of the ERα subtype were predominantly induced in concert with vitellogenin similarly to fish exposed to 17β-estradiol (E2) as measured by quantitative real-time PCR. NP also induced circulating plasma levels of estrogen, which may contribute to overall activation of the ERs. To measure the activation of each receptor isotype by E2 and NP, we employed reporter assays using an estrogen response element (ERE)–luciferase construct. Results from these studies show that ERα had the greatest activity following exposure to E2 and NP. This activity was inhibited by the antagonists ICI 182 780 and ZM 189 154. Furthermore, both βb and βa subtypes depressed ERα activation, suggesting that the cellular composition of receptor isotypes may contribute to the overall actions of estrogen and estrogenic contaminants via the receptors. Results from these studies collectively reveal the differential response of fish ER isotypes in response to xenoestrogens.

Free access

Amy L Filby, Karen L Thorpe and Charles R Tyler

Complex interrelationships in the signalling of oestrogenic effects mean that environmental oestrogens present in the aquatic environment have the potential to disrupt physiological function in fish in a more complex manner than portrayed in the present literature. Taking a broader approach to investigate the possible effect pathways and the likely consequences of environmental oestrogen exposure in fish, the effects of 17β-oestradiol (E2) were studied on the expression of a suite of genes which interact to mediate growth, development and thyroid and interrenal function (growth hormone GH (gh), GH receptor (ghr ), insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) (igf1), IGF-I receptor (igf1r ), thyroid hormone receptors-α (thra) and -β (thrb) and glucocorticoid receptor (gr )) together with the expression analyses of sex-steroid receptors and ten other genes centrally involved in sexual development and reproduction in fathead minnow (fhm; Pimephales promelas). Exposure of adult fhm to 35 ng E2/l for 14 days induced classic oestrogen biomarker responses (hepatic oestrogen receptor 1 and plasma vitellogenin), and impacted on the reproductive axis, feminising ‘male’ steroidogenic enzyme expression profiles and suppressing genes involved in testis differentiation. However, E2 also triggered a cascade of responses for gh, ghr, igf1, igf1r, thra, thrb and gr in the pituitary, brain, liver, gonad and gill, with potential consequences for the functioning of many physiological processes, not just reproduction. Molecular responses to E2 were complex, with most genes showing differential responses between tissues and sexes. For example, igf1 expression increased in brain but decreased in gill on exposure to E2, and responded in an opposite way in males compared with females in liver, gonad and pituitary. These findings demonstrate the importance of developing a deeper understanding of the endocrine interactions for unravelling the mechanisms of environmental oestrogen action and predicting the likely health consequences.

Free access

HM Sheppard, S Matsuda, JC Harries, KB Kindle and DM Heery

Steroid receptors activate transcription in yeast cells via interactions with endogenous coactivators and/or basal factors. We examined the effects of mutations in the ligand binding domain on the transcriptional activity of ERalpha in yeast. Our results show that mutations in Helix 3 (K366A) and Helix 12 (M547A, L548A) disrupt transcriptional activity of ERalpha in yeast, as previously observed in mammalian cells. However, replacement of a conserved tyrosine residue in Helix 12 with alanine or aspartate (Y541A and Y541D), which renders ERalpha constitutively active in mammalian cells, had only a weak stimulatory effect on ligand-independent reporter activation by ERalpha in yeast. Two-hybrid interaction experiments revealed that a Y541A mutant expressed in yeast was capable of ligand-independent binding to a mammalian coactivator, suggesting that there is a subtle difference in how this mutant interacts with mammalian and yeast cofactors. We also show that the ligand-dependent activities of ERalpha and progesterone receptor (PR) in yeast cells were strongly enhanced by the human p160 protein steroid receptor coactivator (SRC1), but not by CREB-Binding Protein (CBP) or the p300/CBP associated factor (P/CAF). Although the SRC1 activation domains AD1 and AD2 are functional in yeast, deletion of these sequences only partially impaired SRC1 coactivator function in this organism; this is in contrast to similar experiments in mammalian cells. Thus SRC1 sequences involved in recruitment of CBP/p300 and Co-Activator-Associated Arginine Methyltransferase (CARM-1) in mammalian cells are not essential for its function in yeast, suggesting that SRC1 operates via distinct mechanisms in yeast and mammalian cells.

Free access

EM McGowan, RP Weinberger, JD Graham, HD Hill, JA Hughes, GM O'Neill and CL Clarke

Changes in the cell cytoskeleton occur in cell transformation and recent data suggest the involvement of ovarian hormones, which are implicated in cancer development and progression. In human breast and endometrial tumors, there is disrupted expression of progesterone receptor (PR) isoforms and predominance of one isoform, usually PRA. PRA predominance is an early event in carcinogenesis, and in cancers is associated with poor clinical features. Overexpression of PRA in vitro causes altered progestin regulation of cell morphology, suggesting that PRA overexpression may provoke deleterious changes in cell functioning. This study aimed to identify pathways of cytoskeleton regulation responsive to progestins and to determine whether these are perturbed when PRA is overexpressed to the levels seen in cancers. Progestin treatment of PR-positive breast cancer cells caused increased cell surface area whereas after induction of a stably integrated PRA construct, cells became rounded and the cell surface was decreased. The effect of PRA induction on cell rounding was reversed by the anti-progestin RU38486. Altered tropomyosin (Tm) isoforms were implicated in these morphological differences, as there was a PRA-mediated alteration in Tm5 isoform levels, and transfection of Tm5a mimicked progestin-mediated cell rounding in PRA-overexpressing cells. Ezrin was redistributed from the membrane to cytoplasmic locations in the presence of progestin, and discrete focal localization was evident in cells with PRA predominance. Progestin effects on the cytoskeleton in PRA-overexpressing cells provide evidence for novel endocrine regulation of aspects of actin microfilament composition, suggesting that changes in the cytoskeleton known to be associated with cancer development and progression may be regulated in part by altered PRA expression which develops early in carcinogenesis.

Free access

Mu-Hsin Chang, Wei-Wen Kuo, Ray-Jade Chen, Ming-Chin Lu, Fuu-Jen Tsai, Wu-Hsien Kuo, Ling-Yun Chen, Wen-Jun Wu, Chih-Yang Huang and Chun-Hsien Chu

The IGF-II/mannose 6-phosphate receptor (IGF2R) function in extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling is known to occur as a result of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) activation and plasmin in the proteolytic cleavage level caused by the interaction between latent TGF-β and urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) respectively. In one of our previous studies, we found IGF-II and IGF2R dose-dependently correlated with the progression of pathological hypertrophy remodeling following complete abdominal aorta ligation. However, how this IGF2R signaling pathway responds specifically to IGF-II and regulates the myocardial ECM remodeling process is unclear. We found that IGF2R was aberrantly expressed in myocardial infarction scars. The matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) zymographic activity was elevated in H9c2 cardiomyoblast cells treated with IGF-II, but not IGF-I. Treatment with Leu27IGF-II, an IGF2R specifically binding IGF-II analog, resulted in significant time-dependent increases in the MMP-9, tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA), and urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA); and a reduction in the tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-2 (TIMP-2) protein expression. Furthermore, IGF2R expression inhibition by siRNA blocked the IGF-II-induced MMP-9 activity. We hypothesize that after IGF-II is bound with IGF2R, the resulting signal disrupts the balance in the MMP-9/TIMP-2 expression level and increases plasminogen activator (PAs) expression involved in the development of myocardial remodeling. If so, IGF2R signaling inhibition may have potential use in the development of therapies preventing heart fibrosis progression.

Restricted access

R. M. Haigh and C. T. Jones


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

Russell Snyder and Thomas Thekkumkara

Recently, we have demonstrated that 13-cis retinoic acid (13cRA) downregulates rat angiotensin type 1A receptor (Agtr1a) gene transcription through a MAP kinase (ERK1/2)-dependent mechanism in rat liver epithelial and aortic smooth muscle cells. However, the exact mechanism remained unknown. In this study, we determined the signaling intermediates activated by ERK1/2 involved in 13cRA-mediated Agtr1a downregulation. Rat Agtr1a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) promoter construct containing a sequence -2541 and -1836 bp upstream of the start site demonstrated reduced CAT activity; this region possesses a specificity protein 1 (SP1) consensus sequence (5′-TGGGGCGGGGCGGGG-3′). Mobility shift analysis using untreated nuclear extracts in the presence of mithramycin A suggests that the trans-acting factor binding to this cis-acting element is SP1. 13cRA significantly reduced specific binding without any change in SP1 protein expression. Studies showed that 13cRA treatment maximally phosphorylates ERK1/2 within 5–10 min, which translocates to the nucleus, activating early growth response protein 1 (Egr1) mRNA expression at 20 min followed by de novo protein synthesis, leading to an EGR1/SP1 interaction. siRNA silencing of Egr1 restored Agtr1a mRNA and protein expression in 13cRA-treated cells, and Sp1 silencing results in complete loss of Agtr1a expression. Our study suggests that 13cRA-mediated activation of ERK1/2, through EGR1, is capable of disrupting SP1, the requisite trans-activator for Agtr1a expression, providing a novel paradigm in Agtr1a gene transcription.

Free access

RS Sellers, AI Luchin, V Richard, RM Brena, D Lima and TJ Rosol

Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) is a multifunctional protein that is often dysregulated in cancer. The human PTHrP gene is alternatively spliced into three isoforms, each with a unique 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR), encoding 139, 173 and 141 amino acid proteins. The regulation of PTHrP mRNA isoform expression has not been completely elucidated, but it may be affected by transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1). In this study, we examined differences in the PTHrP mRNA isoform expression in two squamous carcinoma cell lines (SCC2/88 and HARA), an immortalized keratinocyte cell line (HaCaT), and spontaneous human lung cancer with adjacent normal tissue. In addition, the effect of TGF-beta1 on PTHrP mRNA isoform expression and stability was examined. Cell-type specific expression of PTHrP mRNA isoforms occurred between the various cell lines, normal human lung, and immortalized human keratinocytes (HaCaT). PTHrP isoform expression pattern was significantly altered between normal lung tissue and the adjacent lung cancer. In vitro studies revealed that TGF-beta1 differentially altered the mRNA steady-state levels and mRNA stability of the PTHrP isoforms. Protein-RNA binding studies identified different proteins binding to the 3'-UTR of the PTHrP isoforms (139) and (141), which may be important in the differential mRNA stability and response to cytokines between the PTHrP isoforms. The data demonstrate that there is cell-type specific expression of PTHrP mRNA isoforms, and disruption of the normal regulation during cancer progression may in part be associated with TGF-beta1-induced changes in PTHrP mRNA isoform expression and stability.