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D Gill, K J Brocklehurst, H W G Brown, and D M Smith

Glucokinase (GK) plays a critical role in controlling blood glucose; GK activators have been shown to stimulate insulin secretion acutely both in vitro and in vivo. Sustained stimulation of insulin secretion could potentially lead to β-cell exhaustion; this study examines the effect of chronic GK activation on β-cells. Gene expression and insulin secretion were measured in rodent islets treated in vitro with GKA71 for 72 h. Key β-cell gene expression was measured in rat, mouse and global GK heterozygous knockout mouse islets (gk del/wt ). Insulin secretion, after chronic exposure to GKA71, was measured in perifused rat islets. GKA71 acutely increased insulin secretion in rat islets in a glucose-dependent manner. Chronic culture of mouse islets with GKA71 in 5 mmol/l glucose significantly increased the expression of insulin, IAPP, GLUT2, PDX1 and PC1 and decreased the expression of C/EBPβ compared with 5 mmol/l glucose alone. Similar increases were shown for insulin, GLUT2, IAPP and PC1 in chronically treated rat islets. Insulin mRNA was also increased in GKA71-treated gk del/wt islets. No changes in GK mRNA were observed. Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion was improved in perifused rat islets following chronic treatment with GKA71. This was associated with a greater insulin content and GK protein level. Chronic treatment of rodent islets with GKA71 showed an upregulation of key β-cell genes including insulin and an increase in insulin content and GK protein compared with glucose alone.

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F Al-Khafaji, M Wiltshire, D Fuhrer, G Mazziotti, M D Lewis, P J Smith, and M Ludgate

Epidemiological studies have revealed a significantly higher incidence of toxic adenoma (TA) and toxic multi-nodular goitre (TMNG) in regions of iodine deficiency. Fifty to eighty percent of TA and TMNG are caused by activation of the cAMP pathway, mostly by mutations in the thyrotrophin receptor (TSHR).

We aimed to investigate whether iodide could modulate the biological effects of activating TSHR mutations. We have applied an in vitro model of TA comprising FRTL-5 cells stably expressing activating TSHR. We have mimicked the in vivo situation by examining the effects of prolonged exposure to iodide on the proliferation and signal transduction etc. of these cells.

We observed an iodide-induced ‘inhibition of proliferation’ which was significant from 10 mM in the presence of serum but from 1 mM in its absence. The inhibition of proliferation was significantly higher in the activating mutant expressing FRTL-5 compared with control Neo or wild-type TSHR, indicating that the effect was mediated via the cAMP cascade. The effect was neither due to hyper-tonicity nor was it the result of an increase in cell death either by apoptosis or necrosis. Prolonged exposure to iodide produces an increase in cells in the G2 and post-G2 phases, indicating that G2/M blockade contributes to the mechanism of inhibition.

The mutant expressing FRTL-5 cells have increased proliferation when chronically exposed to TSH, and this is associated with a reduction in phosphorylated (p) CREB levels. This contrasts with the effect of iodide in which inhibition of proliferation is accompanied by an increase in pCREB.

In conclusion, our studies indicate that the biological effects of activating TSHR mutations vary with the ambient iodide supply and could be masked in regions of high iodine intake.

Free access

I J Bujalska, M Quinkler, J W Tomlinson, C T Montague, D M Smith, and P M Stewart

Obesity is associated with increased morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Although obesity is a multi-factorial heterogeneous condition, fat accumulation in visceral depots is most highly associated with these risks. Pathological glucocorticoid excess (i.e. in Cushing’s syndrome) is a recognised, reversible cause of visceral fat accumulation. The aim of this study was to identify depot-specific glucocorticoid-target genes in adipocyte precursor cells (preadipocytes) using Affymetrix microarray technique. Confluent preadipocytes from subcutaneous (SC) and omental (OM) adipose tissue collected from five female patients were treated for 24 h with 100 nM cortisol (F), RNA was pooled and hybridised to the Affymetrix U133 microarray set. We identified 72 upregulated and 30 downregulated genes by F in SC cells. In OM preadipocytes, 56 genes were increased and 19 were decreased. Among the most interesting were transcription factors, markers of adipocyte differentiation and glucose metabolism, cell adhesion and growth arrest protein factors involved in G-coupled and Wnt signalling. The Affymetrix data have been confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR for ten specific genes, including HSD11B1, GR, C/EBPα, C/EBPβ, IL-6, FABP4, APOD, IRS2, AGTR1 and GHR. One of the most upregulated genes in OM but not in SC cells was HSD11B1. The GR was similarly expressed and not regulated by glucocorticoids in SC and OM human preadipocytes. C/EBPα was expressed in SC preadipocytes and upregulated by F, but was below the detection level in OM cells. C/EBPβ was highly expressed both in SC and in OM preadipocytes, but was not regulated by F. Our results provide insight into the genes involved in the regulation of adipocyte differentiation by cortisol, highlighting the depot specifically in human adipose tissue.

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Z-Q Han, H A Coppock, D M Smith, S Van Noorden, M W Makgoba, C G Nicholl, and S Legon


An abundant, seven trans-membrane domain receptor related to the calcitonin receptor has been studied by a number of groups without identification of its ligand. A recent report claimed that the receptor was a type 1 CGRP receptor (Aiyar et al J. Biol. Chem. 271 11325-11329 (1996)). We have studied the equivalent rat sequence in transfected cells. When expressed in 293 cells the receptor interacts with CGRP and adrenomedullin with KD values of 1.2 nM for CGRP and 11 nM for adrenomedullin. Both ligands cause an elevation of intracellular cAMP with EC50 values of 4 nM and 20 nM respectively and these effects are inhibited by the antagonist CGRP8-37. The receptor is expressed at high levels in the pulmonary vascular endothelium. Both the pharmacological data and the localisation are consistent with the conclusion that the orphan receptor is a type 1 CGRP receptor. However, when expressed in COS-7 cells, no receptor activity could be demonstrated suggesting that 293 cells contain a factor necessary for functional receptor expression.