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Changxue Lu and Sheue-Yann Cheng

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) and thyroid hormone receptors (TRs) are members of the nuclear receptor superfamily. They are ligand-dependent transcription factors that interact with their cognate hormone response elements in the promoters to regulate respective target gene expression to modulate cellular functions. While the transcription activity of each is regulated by their respective ligands, recent studies indicate that via multiple mechanisms PPARs and TRs crosstalk to affect diverse biological functions. Here, we review recent advances in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms and biological impact of crosstalk between these two important nuclear receptors, focusing on their roles in adipogenesis and carcinogenesis.

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Jing Lu, Cheng Cheng, Zhen-chao Cheng, Qian Wu, Han Shen, Ming-xia Yuan, Bo Zhang, and Jin-Kui Yang

RFX6 transcription factor is believed to play a central role in directing cell development of insulin-producing pancreatic islet. RFX6 homozygous mutations cause syndromic neonatal diabetes with hypoplastic pancreas. However, RFX6 heterozygous mutations cause maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) with normal pancreas development. Here, we show that RFX6 may control islet cell development and insulin production in different manners. The rfx6 knockout zebrafish generated by CRISPR/Cas9 exhibited an overt diabetes phenotype. Pancreatic islet failed to form compact structures in the knockout fish. While endocrine pancreatic islet non-β-cells were absent, insulin-producing β-cells were present in the knockout fish. Although insulin mRNA level was normal in the β-cells of the knockout fish, insulin protein level was decreased. High-throughput RNA sequencing (RNAseq) showed that differentially expressed genes were enriched in the translation term in islet β-cells from the knockout fish. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIPseq) of normally developed islet β-cells from mice demonstrated that rfx6 interacted with translation initiation factors and controlled insulin translation. Our data indicate that Rfx6 may act as a transcription factor regulating the transcription of genes involved in mRNA translation, which may represent a new mechanism and treatment strategy for diseases.

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Mingtong Xu, Xiaochao Chen, Li Yan, Hua Cheng, and Weiqing Chen

Association between the (AC)n dinucleotide repeat polymorphism at the 5′-end of the aldose reductase gene and the occurrence of diabetic nephropathy was conducted. We examined eight studies consisting of ten Caucasian type 1 diabetes mellitus case–control comparisons and eight studies consisting of nine type 2 diabetes mellitus case–control comparisons, which were based on our inclusion criterion and available in the literature. The meta-analysis demonstrated a large heterogeneity among the studies on the type 1 diabetic subjects and a significant association was observed between the (AC)n dinucleotide repeat polymorphism at the 5′-end of the aldose reductase gene and diabetic nephropathy. The Z−2 allele appeared to be a genetic risk factor for susceptibility to diabetic nephropathy with a random effects odds ratio (OR) of 1.40 (95% confidence interval, CI (1.07, 1.84)). The Z+2 allele showed a protective effect on diabetic nephropathy with a random effects OR of 0.77 (95% CI (0.65, 0.91)). The meta-analysis, however, showed no association between the genetic polymorphism and diabetic nephropathy in type 2 diabetic subjects. Neither the risk Z−2 allele nor the protective Z+2 allele in type 1 diabetic subjects appeared to have an effect on nephropathy in type 2 diabetic subjects, while their fixed effects OR was 1.09 (95% CI (0.96, 1.22)) and 0.88 (95% CI (0.67, 1.15)) respectively. The current meta-analysis demonstrated a correlation between the (AC)n dinucleotide repeat polymorphism and the occurrence of diabetic nephropathy in Caucasian type 1 diabetic subjects in contrast to type 2 diabetic subject population in which such an association could not be demonstrated.

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C. Y. Cheng, M. V. Flasch, and P. J. Hornsby


Primary fetal human adrenocortical cells of definitive zone origin were transfected by electroporation with pSV3neo, a plasmid coding for SV40 T antigen and neo, which confers resistance to the antibiotic G418. The clones obtained proliferated for 30 to 40 population doublings after isolation when grown under standard medium conditions, and then entered 'crisis'. When early-passage clones were incubated with cyclic AMP (1:1 N6-monobutyryl and 8-bromo analogues), cell rounding was observed, as in primary cultures of human adrenocortical cells. As previously shown in bovine adrenocortical cells, rounding was inhibited with a monoclonal antibody against urokinase plasminogen activator but not with a monoclonal antibody against tissue plasminogen activator. The regulation of the steroidogenic pathway in clones was investigated. The effects of cyclic AMP and activation of protein kinase C were examined in cells maintained in defined medium or in the presence of serum. 17α-Hydroxylase was strongly induced by cyclic AMP, as evidenced by Northern blotting and by the conversion of progesterone or 25-hydroxy-[ 1,2-3H]cholesterol, this induction being blocked by low concentrations of 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA). Cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme was strongly induced by cyclic AMP, and clones also showed low activities of 21-hydroxylase and 11β-hydroxylase. Under all circumstances levels of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3β-HSD), as assessed by Northern blotting or by conversion of 25-hydroxycholesterol, were very low. 3β-HSD was not induced by cyclic AMP or TPA alone, but was induced by the combination of the two agents. The regulation of 17α-hydroxylase and 3β-HSD resembles that previously described in primary cultures of human fetal adrenocortical cells. Thus, transfection with SV40 T antigen resulted in the production of clones which preserve the unique characteristics of the human adrenal cortex.

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Alok Mishra, Xu-guang Zhu, Kai Ge, and Sheue-Yann Cheng

To understand the roles of thyroid hormone receptors (TRs) in adipogenesis, we adopted a loss-of-function approach. We generated 3T3-L1 cells stably expressing either TRα1 mutant (TRα1PV) or TRβ1 mutant (TRβ1PV). TRα1PV and TRβ1PV are dominant negative mutations with a frameshift in the C-terminal amino acids. In control cells, the thyroid hormone, tri-iodothyronine (T3), induced a 2.5-fold increase in adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 cells, as demonstrated by increased lipid droplets. This increase was mediated by T3-induced expression of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) and CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α (C/EBPα), which are master regulators of adipogenesis at both the mRNA and protein levels. In 3T3-L1 cells stably expressing TRα1PV (L1-α1PV cells) or TRβ1PV (L1-β1PV cells), adipogenesis was reduced 94 or 54% respectively, indicative of differential inhibitory activity of mutant TR isoforms. Concordantly, the expression of PPARγ and C/EBPα at the mRNA and protein levels was more repressed in L1-α1PV cells than in L1-β1PV cells. In addition, the expression of PPARγ downstream target genes involved in fatty acid synthesis – the lipoprotein lipase (Lpl) and aP2 involved in adipogenesis – was more inhibited by TRα1PV than by TRβ1PV. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays showed that TRα1PV was more avidly recruited than TRβ1PV to the promoter to preferentially block the expression of the C/ebpα gene. Taken together, these data indicate that impaired adipogenesis by mutant TR is isoform dependent. The finding that induction of adipogenesis is differentially regulated by TR isoforms suggests that TR isoform-specific ligands could be designed for therapeutic intervention for lipid abnormalities.

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Qun Cheng, Weipin Dong, Lei Qian, Jingcheng Wu, and Yongde Peng

Visfatin is an adipocytokine that plays an important role in attenuating insulin resistance by binding to insulin receptor. It has been suggested that visfatin plays a role in the regulation of cell apoptosis and inflammation by an as yet unidentified mechanism. This study investigated the protective effects of visfatin on palmitate-induced islet β-cell apoptosis in the clonal mouse pancreatic β-cell line MIN6. The cells were treated with palmitate and/or recombinant visfatin. An 1-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-3,5-diphenylformazan assay was used to detect cell proliferation, V-FITC/propidium iodide staining was used to measure cell apoptosis and necrosis, and western blot analysis was used to detect the expression of proapoptotic proteins. The incubation of the cells with visfatin led to a concentration-dependent increase of cell proliferation (1.55-fold at 10−7 M and 24 h compared with control, P<0.05). Visfatin significantly reduced the cell apoptosis induced by palmitate and caused a significant change in the expression of several proapoptotic proteins, including upregulation of Bcl-2 and a marked downregulation of cytochrome c and caspase 3. Visfatin also activated the ERK1/2 and the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT signaling pathways in a time- and concentration-dependent manner, and the effect of visfatin on apoptosis was blocked by the specific ERK1/2 and PI3K/AKT inhibitors, PD098059 and LY294002. We conclude that visfatin can increase β-cell proliferation and prevent apoptosis, activate intracellular signaling, and regulate the expression of proapoptotic proteins. The antiapoptotic action of visfatin is mediated by activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent and PI3K-dependent signaling pathways.

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Chun-Che Yen, Ya-Hui Huang, Chu-Yu Liao, Cheng-Jung Liao, Wan-Li Cheng, Wei-Jan Chen, and Kwang-Huei Lin

Thyroid hormone (triiodothyronine, T3) regulates growth, development and differentiation. To examine the influence of T3 on hepatoma cell growth, thyroid receptor (TR)α1 or TRβ1 over-expressing HepG2 cell lines were used. Growth of the HepG2-TR stable cell line was inhibited by over 50% following treatment with T3. However, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β neutralizing antibody, but not the control antibody can reverse the cell growth inhibition effect of T3. Flow cytometric analysis indicated that the growth inhibition was apparent at the transition point between the G1 and S phases of the cell cycle. The expression of major cell cycle regulators was used to provide further evidence for the growth inhibition. Cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (cdk2) and cyclin E were down-regulated in HepG2-TR cells. Moreover, p21 protein or mRNA levels were up-regulated by around 5-fold or 7.3-fold respectively following T3 treatment. Furthermore, phospho-retinoblastoma (ppRb) protein was down-regulated by T3. The expression of TGF-β was studied to delineate the repression mechanism. TGF-β was stimulated by T3 and its promoter activity was enhanced six- to eight-fold by T3. Furthermore, both T3 and TGF-β repressed the expression of cdk2, cyclin E and ppRb. On the other hand, TGF-β neutralizing but not control antibody blocked the repression of cdk2, cyclin E and ppRb by T3. These results demonstrated that T3 might play a key role in liver tumor cell proliferation.

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Ying Zhang, Mingtong Xu, Shaoling Zhang, Li Yan, Chuan Yang, Wensheng Lu, Yan Li, and Hua Cheng

Free fatty acids (FFAs) exert divergent effects on β-cells. Acute exposure to FFAs stimulates insulin secretion, whereas chronic exposure impairs β-cell function and induces apoptosis. The G protein-coupled receptor 40 (GPR40) is preferentially expressed in β-cells and is activated by a wide range of FFAs. In this study, we used small interfering RNA technology and apoptosis assay in mouse β-cell NIT-1 to address the role of GPR40 in β-cell lipoapoptosis and function. Results showed that palmitate induced β-cell apoptosis, which was not mediated through GPR40, whereas oleate protected NIT-1 cells from palmitate-induced lipoapoptosis, which was mediated at least in part through GPR40. Moreover, by detecting the activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and MAP kinase (MAPK) pathways, we found that oleate promoted the activation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase–MAPK pathway mainly via GPR40, increased the expression of early growth response gene-1, leading to the anti-lipoapoptotic effect on NIT-1 cells. It was suggested that GPR40 might be implicated in the control of β-cell mass plasticity and GPR40 probably provide a link between obesity and type 2 diabetes.

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M Cheng, N Xu, B Iwasiow, N Seidah, M Chretien, and RP Shiu

Two proprotein convertase cDNAs, PC1 and furin, were stably transfected into the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. The PC1 or furin over-expressing cells possessed an altered morphology. When grown in vitro in a serum-free medium, the population doubling time of the convertase-transfected cells was twice that of wild-type (WT) cells. High concentrations of estradiol stimulated the growth of all three cell types to a similar extent; however, at low concentrations of estradiol, the convertase-transfected cells grew more slowly than WT cells. In athymic nude mice implanted with 5 mg estradiol pellets, the growth of tumors of convertase-transfected MCF-7 cells was stimulated to a degree similar to that of WT MCF-7 tumors. However, in mice implanted with lower-dose (1.5 mg) estradiol pellets, the tumors of PC1- or furin-transfected MCF-7 cells grew approximately five times slower than those of WT MCF-7 cells. In mice implanted with tamoxifen pellets, tumors of PC1- or furin-transfected MCF-7 cells regressed approximately five times slower than the WT tumors. This study shows that the over-expression of proprotein convertases confers a greater estrogen dependency and anti-estrogen resistance on human breast cancer cells.

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Xu-guang Zhu, Dong Wook Kim, Michael L Goodson, Martin L Privalsky, and Sheue-Yann Cheng

We previously showed that two thyroid hormone receptor (TR) isoforms – TRα1 and TRβ1 – differentially regulate thyroid hormone (triiodothyroxine, T3)-stimulated adipogenesis in vivo. This study aims to understand the role of the nuclear receptor corepressor, NCoR1, in TR isoform-dependent adipogenesis. We found that T3-stimulated adipogenesis of 3T3-L1 cells was accompanied by progressive loss of NCoR1 protein levels. In 3T3-L1 cells stably expressing a mutated TRα1, PV (L1-α1PV cells), the T3-stimulated adipogenesis was more strongly inhibited than that in 3T3-L1 cells stably expressing an identical mutation in TRβ1 (L1-β1PV cells). The stronger inhibition of adipogenesis in L1-α1PV cells was associated with a higher NCoR1 protein level. These results indicate that the degree of loss of NCoR1 correlates with the extent of adipogenesis. siRNA knockdown of NCoR1 promoted adipogenesis of control 3T3-L1 cells and reversed the inhibited adipogenesis of L1-α1PV and L1-β1PV cells, indicating that NCoR1 plays an essential role in TR isoform-dependent adipogenesis. An ubiquitin ligase, mSiah2, that targets NCoR1 for proteasome degradation was upregulated on day 1 before the onset of progressive loss of NCoR1. NCoR1 was found to associate with mSiah2 and with TR, TRα1PV, or TRβ1PV, but a stronger interaction of NCoR1 with TRα1PV than with TRβ1PV was detected. Furthermore, TRα1PV–NCoR1 complex was more avidly recruited than TRβ1PV–NCoR1 to the promoter of the C/ebp α gene, leading to more inhibition in its expression. These results indicate that differential interaction of NCoR1 with TR isoforms accounted for the TR isoform-dependent regulation of adipogenesis and that aberrant interaction of NCoR1 with TR could underlie the pathogenesis of lipid disorders in hypothyroidism.