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Kazuyoshi Ukena, Tomohiro Osugi, Jérôme Leprince, Hubert Vaudry and Kazuyoshi Tsutsui

Neuropeptides possessing the Arg-Phe-NH2 (RFamide) motif at their C-termini (designated as RFamide peptides) have been characterized in a variety of animals. Among these, neuropeptide 26RFa (also termed QRFP) is the latest member of the RFamide peptide family to be discovered in the hypothalamus of vertebrates. The neuropeptide 26RFa/QRFP is a 26-amino acid residue peptide that was originally identified in the frog brain. It has been shown to exert orexigenic activity in mammals and to be a ligand for the previously identified orphan G protein-coupled receptor, GPR103 (QRFPR). The cDNAs encoding 26RFa/QRFP and QRFPR have now been characterized in representative species of mammals, birds, and fish. Functional studies have shown that, in mammals, the 26RFa/QRFP–QRFPR system may regulate various functions, including food intake, energy homeostasis, bone formation, pituitary hormone secretion, steroidogenesis, nociceptive transmission, and blood pressure. Several biological actions have also been reported in birds and fish. This review summarizes the current state of identification, localization, and understanding of the functions of 26RFaQRFP and its cognate receptor, QRFPR, in vertebrates.

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JG Lemmen, RJ Arends, AL van Boxtel, PT van der Saag and B van der Burg

With the aim of developing an in vivo model that directly detects activation of estrogen receptors (ERs), transgenic mice carrying a luciferase reporter gene were generated. The luciferase reporter gene was under the control of three consensus estrogen-responsive elements (EREs) coupled to a minimal TATA-box, with or without flanking chick beta-globin insulators. By using this model in combination with the IVIS imaging system, in vivo ER activation was measured. Dose- and time-dependent luciferase activity was induced in various organs of adult transgenic male mice exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) (10-1000 micro g/kg) and 17beta-estradiol dipropionate (EP) (10-1000 micro g/kg), when luciferase activity was measured ex vivo. The highest (>10 000-fold) induction of luciferase was measured in bone and kidney 24 h after exposure to 1000 micro g/kg EP. Other highly responsive organs include liver, testis, pituitary, brain, prostate and colon, which show different activity profiles. This in vivo model for detecting estrogenic activity can be used to assess tissue-specific action of ER agonists and antagonists. These could include selective ER modulators and environmental estrogens. In combination with the IVIS imaging system, this in vivo model is a powerful tool for assessing the kinetics of gene activation by estrogenic compounds.

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Nandana Das and T Rajendra Kumar

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) plays fundamental roles in male and female fertility. FSH is a heterodimeric glycoprotein expressed by gonadotrophs in the anterior pituitary. The hormone-specific FSHβ-subunit is non-covalently associated with the common α-subunit that is also present in the luteinizing hormone (LH), another gonadotrophic hormone secreted by gonadotrophs and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secreted by thyrotrophs. Several decades of research led to the purification, structural characterization and physiological regulation of FSH in a variety of species including humans. With the advent of molecular tools, availability of immortalized gonadotroph cell lines and genetically modified mouse models, our knowledge on molecular mechanisms of FSH regulation has tremendously expanded. Several key players that regulate FSH synthesis, sorting, secretion and action in gonads and extragonadal tissues have been identified in a physiological setting. Novel post-transcriptional and post-translational regulatory mechanisms have also been identified that provide additional layers of regulation mediating FSH homeostasis. Recombinant human FSH analogs hold promise for a variety of clinical applications, whereas blocking antibodies against FSH may prove efficacious for preventing age-dependent bone loss and adiposity. It is anticipated that several exciting new discoveries uncovering all aspects of FSH biology will soon be forthcoming.

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Fabio Malavasi, Silvia Deaglio, Gianluca Zaccarello, Alberto L Horenstein, Antonella Chillemi, Valentina Audrito, Sara Serra, Marina Gandione, Andrea Zitella and Alessandro Tizzani

Ectoenzymes are a family of cell surface molecules whose catalytic domain lies in the extracellular region. A subset of this family, nucleotide-metabolizing ectoenzymes, are key components in the regulation of the extracellular balance between nucleotides (e.g. NAD+ or ATP) and nucleosides (e.g. adenosine). Their substrates and products are signalling molecules that act by binding to specific receptors, triggering signals that regulate a variety of functions, ranging from the migration of immune cells, to synaptic transmission in the brain, to hormone/receptor interactions in the glands. Almost two decades of accumulated data indicate that these regulatory processes significantly affect the endocrine system, a tightly controlled information signal complex with clear evidence of fine regulation. Functional models discussed in this review include insulin secretion, bone modelling and the association between hormones and behaviour. The emerging pattern is one of a system operating as a scale-free network that hinges around hubs of key molecules, such as NAD+ or ATP. The underlying natural link between nucleotides, ectoenzymes and the endocrine system is far from being clearly demonstrated. However, the body of evidence supporting the existence of such connection is growing exponentially. This review will try to read the available evidence in a hypothesis-oriented perspective, starting from the description of NAD+ and of ecto- and endoenzymes involved in its metabolism.

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Ke-feng Yang, Wei Cai, Jia-li Xu and Wen Shi

Maternal high-fat (HF) diets during gestation and lactation have been shown to contribute to metabolic disorders in offspring. Molecular and epigenetic mechanisms underlying this connection may be essential for the prevention and treatment of the fetal origins of metabolic diseases. The current study examined the impact of maternal HF diets on Wnt signaling and histone modification in offspring. Time-pregnant Sprague–Dawley rats were fed either control diet or HF diet during gestation and lactation and then the neonatal offspring of both groups were investigated. The neonatal offspring born to dams fed on HF diets exhibited increases in serum glucose and liver triglyceride levels. Maternal exposure to the HF diet also repressed the mRNA expression of Wnt1 and nuclear β-catenin protein in the liver of offspring. The altered Wnt1 gene expression may be due to the changes of acetylation of H4 at its promoter as well as acetylation of H4 and methylation of H3K9 at coding region. Maternal exposure to the HF diet induced suppression of the Wnt /β-catenin signaling pathway through histone modification, potentially increasing the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Free access

Katharine B Lee, Vishal Khivansara, Michelle M Santos, Pankaj Lamba, Tony Yuen, Stuart C Sealfon and Daniel J Bernard

Transforming growth factor β superfamily ligands regulate pituitary FSH production and secretion. The best-described examples are the activins and inhibins, which respectively stimulate and hinder Fshb subunit transcription in gonadotrope cells. More recently, members of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) sub-family were shown to regulate FSH production in a manner analogous to the activins. Here, we used the murine gonadotrope cell line, LβT2, to investigate mechanisms through which BMP2 regulates the Fshb gene. Although expressed at low levels in LβT2 cells, Bmp2 mRNA was readily detected in adult murine pituitary gland. Recombinant BMP2 stimulated Fshb promoter-reporter activity, although its effects were weaker than those of equimolar activin A or B. BMP4 stimulated transcription comparably with BMP2, but BMPs 6 and 7 were about tenfold less potent. Remarkably, BMP2 and activin A synergistically upregulated Fshb transcription and endogenous Fshb mRNA levels in LβT2 cells. Although functionally cooperative, the two ligands appeared to use distinct intracellular mechanisms to mediate their responses because neither ligand altered the timing or magnitude of the other’s effects. Receptor overexpression analyses suggested that BMP2 may preferentially signal through complexes of the type II receptor, BMPR2, and the type I receptor, activin receptor like kinase (ALK2; Acvr1), to stimulate Fshb transcription. BMP2 rapidly activated the Smad1/5/8 intracellular signaling cascade and Smad8 overexpression potentiated BMP2’s effects. In summary, BMPs regulate Fshb transcription in LβT2 cells and can amplify the already robust effects of the activins through a distinct signaling mechanism. Because BMP2 is expressed in the adult mouse pituitary, it may act as critical paracrine co-regulator of FSH synthesis by gonadotropes.

Free access

A M Tarrant, S R Greytak, G V Callard and M E Hahn

The estrogen receptor-related receptors (ERRs) are a group of nuclear receptors that were originally identified on the basis of sequence similarity to the estrogen receptors. The three mammalian ERR genes have been implicated in diverse physiological processes ranging from placental development to maintenance of bone density, but the diversity, function, and regulation of ERRs in non-mammalian species are not well understood. In this study, we report the cloning of four ERR cDNAs from the Atlantic killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus, along with adult tissue expression and estrogen responsiveness. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that F. heteroclitus (Fh)ERRα is an ortholog of the single ERRα identified in mammals, pufferfish, and zebrafish. FhERRβa and FhERRβb are co-orthologs of the mammalian ERRβ. Phylogenetic placement of the fourth killifish ERR gene, tentatively identified as FhERRγb, is less clear. The four ERRs showed distinct, partially overlapping mRNA expression patterns in adult tissues. FhERRα was broadly expressed. FhERRβa was expressed at apparently low levels in eye, brain, and ovary. FhERRβb was expressed more broadly in liver, gonad, eye, brain, and kidney. FhERRγb was expressed in multiple tissues including gill, heart, kidney, and eye. Distinct expression patterns of FhERRβa and FhERRβb are consistent with subfunctionalization of the ERRβ paralogs. Induction of ERRα mRNA by exogenous estrogen exposure has been reported in some mammalian tissues. In adult male killifish, ERR expression did not significantly change following estradiol injection, but showed a trend toward a slight induction (three- to five-fold) of ERRα expression in heart. In a second, more targeted experiment, expression of ERRα in adult female killifish was downregulated 2.5-fold in the heart following estradiol injection. In summary, our results indicate that killifish contain additional ERR genes relative to mammals, including ERRβ paralogs. In addition, regulation of ERRα expression in killifish apparently differs from regulation in mammals. Together, these features may facilitate determination of both conserved and specialized ERR gene functions.

Free access

Raifish E Mendoza-Villarroel, Mickaël Di-Luoffo, Etienne Camiré, Xavier C Giner, Catherine Brousseau and Jacques J Tremblay

Insulin-like 3 (INSL3), a hormone produced by Leydig cells, regulates testicular descent during foetal life and bone metabolism in adults. Despite its importance, little is known about the molecular mechanisms controlling INSL3 expression. Reduced Insl3 mRNA levels were reported in the testis of mice deficient for chicken ovalbumin upstream promoter-transcription factor II (COUP-TFII), an orphan nuclear receptor known to play critical roles in cell differentiation and lineage determination in several tissues. Although COUP-TFII-deficient mice had Leydig cell dysfunction and impaired fertility, it remained unknown whether Insl3 expression was directly regulated by COUP-TFII. In this study, we observed a significant decrease in Insl3 mRNA levels in MA-10 Leydig cells depleted of COUP-TFII. Furthermore, a −1087 bp mouse Insl3 promoter was activated fourfold by COUP-TFII in MA-10 Leydig cells. Using 5′ progressive deletions, the COUP-TFII-responsive element was located between −186 and −79 bp, a region containing previously uncharacterised direct repeat 0-like (DR0-like) and DR3 elements. The recruitment and direct binding of COUP-TFII to the DR0-like element were confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation and DNA precipitation assay respectively. Mutation of the DR0-like element, which prevented COUP-TFII binding, significantly decreased COUP-TFII-mediated activation of the −1087 bp Insl3 reporter in CV-1 fibroblast cells but not in MA-10 Leydig cells. Finally, we found that COUP-TFII cooperates with the nuclear receptor steroidogenic factor 1 (SF1) to further enhance Insl3 promoter activity. Our results identify Insl3 as a target for COUP-TFII in Leydig cells and revealed that COUP-TFII acts through protein–protein interactions with other DNA-bound transcription factors, including SF1, to activate Insl3 transcription in these cells.

Free access

Raquel Tobar-Rubin, Dahlia Sultan, Daniela Janevska, Kyle Turcic, Julie Carroll, Laura Ooms and Robin Pals-Rylaarsdam

McCune–Albright syndrome (MAS) is a human genetic disorder caused by a mutation that constitutively activates the Gsα subunit by abolishing GTP hydrolysis. MAS patients suffer from a range of endocrinopathies as well as polyostotic fibrous dysplasia of bone. We previously identified an intragenic suppressor of the MAS mutation in a yeast system, which substituted two residues in the GTP-binding site of Gpa1: L318P and D319V to suppress the constitutive activity of an R297H mutation, corresponding to the human F222P, D223V, and R201H mutations respectively. To extend these studies, the human GNAS gene was subjected to site-directed mutagenesis. Constructs expressing the MAS mutation (R201H), the MAS mutation plus the mutations homologous to the yeast suppressors (R201H, F222P/D223V), or the yeast suppressor mutation alone (F222P/D223V) were transfected into HEK293 cells, and basal and receptor-stimulated cAMP levels were measured. Expression of R201H increased the basal cAMP levels and decreased the EC50 for hormone-stimulated cAMP production. These effects were dependent on the amount of R201H protein expressed. R201H, F222P/D223V abolished the constitutive activity of the MAS mutation and caused responses to hormone that were not different from those measured in cells expressing WT Gsα. Interestingly, F222P/D223V behaved similar to R201H in causing increases in basal cAMP production, thus demonstrating constitutive activity. Substitution of another acidic (E) or polar (N, T, and G) amino acid at position 223 caused no suppression of R201H activity, while substitution of a second nonpolar amino acid (A) at this position partially suppressed, and the larger polar I residue completely suppressed the effects of R201H.

Free access

Li Hu, Fengli He, Meifeng Huang, Meihua Peng, Zhiguang Zhou, Feng Liu and Yan-Shan Dai

Nuclear factors of activated T cells (NFAT) c3 have a prominent role in the regulation of proinflammatory factors in immune cells. The classically activated M1 macrophages are key players in the initiation and maintenance of adipose tissue (AT) inflammation. The role of NFATc3 in obesity and AT inflammation is unknown. We set out to determine how deficiency of NFATc3 effected macrophage polarization, inflammation and insulin resistance in visceral AT of high-fat diet (HFD)-fed mice. Nfatc3−/− and WT mice were fed a HFD for 8–17 weeks. Epididymal white AT (eWAT) F4/80(+) cells were characterized by fluorescence-activated cell sorting and quantitative RT-PCR. Results showed that Nfatc3−/− mice developed HFD-induced obesity similar to WT mice, but insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance were improved, and liver fat accumulation was reduced in Nfatc3−/− mice compared to WT control mice. Moreover, M1 macrophage content and proinflammatory factors were reduced, whereas the alternatively activated M2 macrophage content was increased in eWAT of HFD-fed Nfatc3−/− mice compared to that of WT mice. In addition, eWAT insulin signaling was improved in HFD-fed Nfatc3−/− mice. Importantly, after bone-marrow-derived macrophages had been isolated from Nfatc3−/− mice and cultured in vitro, treatment of these cells with interferon-γ and lipopolysaccharide resulted in reduction of M1 inflammatory markers, suggesting that NFATc3 promoted M1 polarization by a cell-autonomous mechanism. The results demonstrated that NFATc3 played an important role in M1 macrophage polarization, AT inflammation and insulin resistance in response to obesity through transcriptional activation of proinflammatory genes.