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F Labrie, V Luu-The, SX Lin, J Simard, C Labrie, M El-Alfy, G Pelletier and A Belanger

In women and men, an important proportion of estrogens and androgens are synthesized locally at their site of action in peripheral target tissues. This new field of endocrinology has been called intracrinology. In postmenopausal women, 100% of active sex steroids are synthesized in peripheral target tissues from inactive steroid precursors while, in adult men, approximately 50% of androgens are made locally in intracrine target tissues. The last and key step in the formation of all estrogens and androgens is catalyzed by members of the family of 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (17 beta-HSDs) while different 17 beta-HSDs inactivate these steroids in the same cell where synthesis takes place. To date, seven human 17 beta-HSDs have been cloned, sequenced and characterized. The 17 beta-HSDs provide each cell with the means of precisely controlling the intracellular concentration of each sex steroid according to local needs.

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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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Anita Kinne, Stephan Roth, Heike Biebermann, Josef Köhrle, Annette Grüters and Ulrich Schweizer

Mutations in the gene encoding the thyroid hormone transporter, monocarboxylate transporter 8 (MCT8), underlie severe mental retardation. We wanted to understand the functional consequences of a series of missense mutations in MCT8 in order to identify therapeutic options for affected patients. We established cell lines stably expressing 12 MCT8 variants in JEG1 and MDCK1 cells. The cell lines were characterized according to MCT8 mRNA and protein expression, tri-iodothyronine (T3) transport activity, substrate K M characteristics, surface expression, and responsiveness to T3 preincubation and chemical chaperones. Functional activities of ins235V and L568P MCT8 mutants depend on the cell type in which they are expressed. These mutants and R271H exhibited considerable transport activity when present at the cell surface as verified by surface biotinylation and kinetic analysis. Most mutants, however, were inactive in T3 transport even when present at the cell surface (e.g. S194F, A224V, ΔF230, L512P). Preincubation of G558D with T3 increased T3 uptake in MDCK1 cells to a small, but significant, extent. Chemical chaperones were ineffective. The finding that the cell type determines surface expression and T3 transport activities of missense mutants in MCT8 may be important to understand phenotypic variability among carriers of different mutations. In particular, the clinical observation that the severity of derangements of thyroid hormone levels does not correlate with mental impairments of the patients may be based on different residual activity of mutant MCT8 in different cell types.

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AH Taylor, AE Fox-Robichaud, C Egan, J Dionne, DE Lawless, J Raymond, J Romney and NC Wong

Oestrogens protect against ischaemic heart disease in the post-menopausal female by increasing serum concentrations of apolipoprotein (apo) AI and the abundance of high-density lipoprotein particles. In men and experimental male animals, the administration of oestrogen has variable effects on apo AI expression. As the major mode of oestrogen action on target genes involves regulating promoter activity and hence transcription, oestrogen is expected to alter transcription of the apo AI gene. To test this hypothesis, the effect of 17beta-oestradiol (E(2)), on rat apo AI promoter activity in male hepatoma HuH-7 cells, was tested by co-transfecting a reporter template, pAI.474.CAT containing-474 to-7 of the rat apo AI promoter and an oestrogen receptor (ER) expression vector, pCMV-ER. Transfected cells exposed to E(2) showed a dose-dependent decrease in chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT)-activity, with a maximum 91+/-1.5% reduction at 1 microM E(2). Deletional analysis of the promoter localized the inhibitory effect of ER and E(2) to site B (-170 to-144) with an adjacent 5' contiguous motif, site S (-186 to-171) acting as an amplifier. HuH-7 cell nuclear extracts showed binding activities with both sites S and B, but recombinant human ER did not. Furthermore, nuclear extracts from E(2)-treated HuH-7 cells showed weaker binding activity to site B, but not to site S. In summary, the inhibitory effect of ER and E(2) on rat apo AI gene activity is mediated by a promoter element, site B. This inhibitory effect arises from a mechanism that does not involve direct ER binding to the B-element. The conclusion that E(2) inhibits apo AI transcription was confirmed in vivo. Treatment of male adult Sprague-Dawley rats with up to 200 microg E(2) for 7 days decreased apo AI protein and hepatic mRNA by 72+/-21% and 68+/-1.4% respectively. Results of 'run-on' transcription of the apo AI gene in isolated hepatic nuclei showed a 55% decrease in hormone-treated male rats. These findings suggest that E(2) exerts primarily an inhibitory effect within male hepatic nuclei.

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Carlos Larqué, Myrian Velasco, Francisco Barajas-Olmos, Neyvis García-Delgado, Juan Pablo Chávez-Maldonado, Jazmín García-Morales, Lorena Orozco and Marcia Hiriart

Research on the postnatal development of pancreatic beta-cells has become an important subject in recent years. Understanding the mechanisms that govern beta-cell postnatal maturation could bring new opportunities to therapeutic approaches for diabetes. The weaning period consists of a critical postnatal window for structural and physiologic maturation of rat beta-cells. To investigate transcriptome changes involved in the maturation of beta-cells neighboring this period, we performed microarray analysis in fluorescence-activated cell-sorted (FACS) beta-cell-enriched populations. Our results showed a variety of gene sets including those involved in the integration of metabolism, modulation of electrical activity, and regulation of the cell cycle that play important roles in the maturation process. These observations were validated using reverse hemolytic plaque assay, electrophysiological recordings, and flow cytometry analysis. Moreover, we suggest some unexplored pathways such as sphingolipid metabolism, insulin-vesicle trafficking, regulation of transcription/transduction by miRNA-30, trafficking proteins, and cell cycle proteins that could play important roles in the process mentioned above for further investigation.

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Angelina Rafaela Debortoli, Wender do Nascimento Rouver, Nathalie Tristão Banhos Delgado, Vinicius Mengal, Erick Roberto Gonçalves Claudio, Laena Pernomian, Lusiane Maria Bendhack, Margareth Ribeiro Moysés and Roger Lyrio dos Santos

Compared with age-matched men, premenopausal women are largely protected from coronary artery disease, a difference that is lost after menopause. The effects of oestrogens are mediated by the activation of nuclear receptors (ERα and ERβ) and by the G protein-coupled oestrogen receptor (GPER). This study aims to evaluate the potential role of GPER in coronary circulation in female and male rats. The baseline coronary perfusion pressure (CPP) and the concentration–response curve with a GPER agonist (G-1) were evaluated in isolated hearts before and after the blockade of GPER. GPER, superoxide dismutase (SOD-2), catalase and gp91phox protein expression were assessed by Western blotting. Superoxide production was evaluated ‘in situ’ via dihydroethidium fluorescence (DHE). GPER blockade significantly increased the CPP in both groups, demonstrating the modulation of coronary tone by GPER. G-1 causes relaxation of the coronary bed in a concentration-dependent manner and was significantly higher in female rats. No differences were detected in GPER, SOD-2 and catalase protein expression. However, gp91phox expression and DHE fluorescence were higher in male rats, indicating elevated superoxide production. Therefore, GPER plays an important role in modulating coronary tone and reactivity in female and male rats. The observed differences in vascular reactivity may be related to the higher superoxide production in male rats. These findings help to elucidate the role of GPER-modulating coronary circulation, providing new information to develop a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of coronary heart disease.

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Randal C Jaffe, Susan D Ferguson-Gottschall, Weihua Gao, Craig Beam and Asgerally T Fazleabas

During the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and early pregnancy, the major secretory product of the uterine glandular epithelial cells in humans and non-human primates is glycodelin. Previous studies using Ishikawa cells, a human endometrial cell line, have shown that a chimeric plasmid containing the baboon glycodelin promoter responds to progestins but the response is modest compared with the induction of glycodelin seen in vivo and in gene array analysis. A recent report indicating that the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) promoted glycodelin expression prompted us to examine its mechanism of action. In Ishikawa cells transfected with the baboon glycodelin promoter, TSA and the synthetic progestin medroxyprogesterone acetate both stimulated expression of the reporter and the combined treatment produced a synergistic effect. The effect of TSA and progestin was absent when the same promoter constructs were transfected into COS-1 cells, a kidney cell line, and a TSA effect but no progestin effect was observed in T47D cells, a mammary cell line. Through deletion analysis, the TSA action was localized to the −67/−52 region of the baboon glycodelin promoter, a region which contains the proximal Sp1 site. Deletions of this same region had no effect on progestin responsiveness. Our findings indicate that at least two regions of the glycodelin promoter are important for the normal induction of glycodelin expression. Non-target cells may lack factors which act on the response elements resulting in the restriction of expression to the appropriate target tissue.

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S Jesmin, I Sakuma, A Salah-Eldin, K Nonomura, Y Hattori and A Kitabatake

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is commonly experienced in men with diabetes mellitus. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been extensively documented for its pathogenic significance in different complications of diabetes. We hypothesized that expressions of VEGF, its receptors and its signaling pathway Akt may be drastically altered in diabetic penile tIssues and their alterations may modulate penile expression of the molecules that are believed to play a role in diabetic ED. Otsuka Long-Evans Fatty (OLETF) rats, a type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus, were used at the insulin-resistant stage of type II diabetes (20 weeks of age). We determined protein and mRNA expressions of VEGF, its receptors, Akt, nitric oxide synthase isoforms, and apoptosis-related molecules in the penis using immunohistochemistry, Western blotting, in situ hybridization, and real-time quantitative PCR analyses. The penile sections were also submitted to the Tdt-mediated dUTP nick end labeling assay for apoptosis. OLETF rats showed marked reductions in penile expression of VEGF, its two receptors and Akt. In OLETF rat penises, endothelial and neuronal nitric oxide synthase isoforms were expressed less abundantly. Furthermore, while anti-apoptotic markers, Bcl-2 and phosphorylated Bad, were down-regulated, pro-apoptotic markers, active caspase-3 and Bax, were up-regulated, resulting in the appearance of apoptotic cells in the penile tIssues of OLETF rats. The VEGF signaling system would work less well in diabetic penile tIssues as a result of the reduced expression, leading to diminished endothelial production of nitric oxide and apoptosis-related erectile tIssue damage. We propose that the abnormalities of the VEGF signaling system in the penis may play a role in the pathophysiology of diabetic ED.

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P Viganò, D Lattuada, S Mangioni, L Ermellino, M Vignali, E Caporizzo, P Panina-Bordignon, M Besozzi and A M Di Blasio

In addition to its calciotropic function, the secosteroid 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3), has potent anti-proliferative/immunomodulatory effects on various tissues. Consistently, the enzyme that catalyzes the synthesis of 1,25(OH)2D3, 1α-hydroxylase (1α-OHase) and the vitamin D receptor have a widespread tissue distribution. Among site-specific functions, the hormone has been suggested to be involved in uterine physiology. However, molecular analysis of the vitamin D system in normal endometrium throughout the menstrual cycle as well as its regulation in the context of endometrial physiological and pathological events have received very limited attention. Thus, we have studied expression, localization and regulation of 1α-OHase in human cycling and early pregnant endometrium. The capacity for 1α-hydroxylation and the presence of vitamin D receptor in endometrial cells have also been evaluated. The functional significance of these findings has been tested by evaluating gene expression of the catabolic enzyme, vitamin D 24-hydroxylase, and of the adhesion protein, osteopontin. Finally, to verify any potential dysfunction of the vitamin D system in endometriosis, a reproductive disease characterized by immune-mediated anomalies, we have analyzed expression of 1α-OHase in both eutopic and ectopic endometrium of affected patients. Results obtained showed that the active form of the 1α-OHase gene was expressed in human endometrial stromal cells independent of the cycle phase but with a significant increase in early pregnant decidua. A similar profile was observed for the protein, which was abundantly expressed in the cytoplasm of both endometrial stroma and epithelial glands. Both cycling and early pregnant endometrial cells also expressed the vitamin D receptor. In the same cells, 1α-OHase mRNA levels were significantly stimulated by the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-1β (50 and 500 pg/ml) while addition of the active form of the hormone could modulate both CYP24 and osteopontin gene expression. The 1α-OHase gene was also expressed in ectopic endometrium and its levels were increased in proliferative phase cultures derived from patients with endometriosis. Human cycling endometrium may be included among the extrarenal sites able to synthesize vitamin D. The IL-1β-mediated induction of 1α-OHase gene and the hormonal modulation of osteopontin support a role for the hormone in the immunological mechanisms underlying uterine function. Abnormalities of this system are present in endometriosis.

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Peng Zhang, Sheng Wang, Liang Wang, Bing Chen Shan, Hui Zhang, Fan Yang, Zhi Qiang Zhou, Xiao Wang, Ye Yuan and You Jia Xu

Postmenopausal osteoporosis is a global health issue. Although a lack of estrogen is considered the major reason for postmenopausal osteoporosis, other factors might also contribute the etiology of the disease. In previous reports, we and others proposed that iron accumulation after menopause accelerates osteoporosis, and here, we genetically modified the expression of an endogenous hormone, hepcidin, to modulate iron status in a mouse model. Our results show that hepcidin levels negatively correlate with bone loss in both knockout and overexpression (with ovariectomy) murine models. In addition, iron overload enhances reactive oxygen species (ROS) activity and attenuates the functions of primary osteoblasts, while iron depletion could reverse this phenomenon through inhibiting the functions of primary osteoclasts. Therefore, our results provide more evidence of the ‘iron accumulation’ hypothesis, which suggests that high iron levels are risk factors for osteoporosis, and the ‘Huang’s hypothesis’ that hepcidin is a potential drug target for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis.