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David M Selva and Geoffrey L Hammond

Thyroid hormones increase hepatic sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) production, which is also regulated by hepatocyte nuclear factor-4α (HNF-4α) in response to changes in the metabolic state of the liver. Since the human SHBG promoter lacks a typical thyroid hormone response element, and because thyroid hormones influence metabolic state, we set out to determine whether thyroid hormones mediate SHBG expression indirectly via changes in HNF-4α levels in HepG2 human hepatoblastoma cells, and in the livers of transgenic mice that express a 4.3 kb human SHBG transgene under the control of its own 0.8 kb promoter sequence. Thyroid hormones (triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)) increase SHBG accumulation in HepG2 cell culture medium over 5 days, and increase cellular SHBG mRNA levels. In addition, T4 treatment of HepG2 cells for 5 days increased HNF-4α mRNA and HNF-4α levels in concert with decreased cellular palmitate levels. Plasma SHBG levels were also increased in mice expressing a human SHBG transgene after 5 days treatment with T3 along with increased hepatic HNF-4α levels. In HepG2 cells, the human SHBG promoter failed to respond acutely (within 24 h) to T4 treatment, but a 4-day pre-treatment with T4 resulted in a robust response that was prevented by co-treatment with HNF-4α siRNA, or by blocking the β-oxidation of palmitate through co-treatment with the carnitine palmitoyltransferase I inhibitor, etomoxir. These data lead us to conclude that thyroid hormones increase SHBG production indirectly by increasing HNF-4α gene expression, and by reducing cellular palmitate levels that further contribute to increased HNF-4α levels in hepatocytes.

Open access

Marc Simard, Caroline Underhill and Geoffrey L Hammond

Corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) is a plasma carrier of glucocorticoids. Human and rat CBGs have six N-glycosylation sites. Glycosylation of human CBG influences its steroid-binding activity, and there are N-glycosylation sites in the reactive center loops (RCLs) of human and rat CBGs. Proteolysis of the RCL of human CBG causes a structural change that disrupts steroid binding. We now show that mutations of conserved N-glycosylation sites at N238 in human CBG and N230 in rat CBG disrupt steroid binding. Inhibiting glycosylation by tunicamycin also markedly reduced human and rat CBG steroid-binding activities. Deglycosylation of fully glycosylated human CBG or human CBG with only one N-glycan at N238 with Endo H-reduced steroid-binding affinity, while PNGase F-mediated deglycosylation does not, indicating that steroid binding is preserved by deamidation of N238 when its N-glycan is removed. When expressed in N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase-I-deficient Lec1 cells, human and rat CBGs, and a human CBG mutant with only one glycosylation site at N238, have higher (2–4 fold) steroid-binding affinities than when produced by sialylation-deficient Lec2 cells or glycosylation-competent CHO-S cells. Thus, the presence and composition of an N-glycan in this conserved position both appear to influence the steroid binding of CBG. We also demonstrate that neutrophil elastase cleaves the RCL of human CBG and reduces its steroid-binding capacity more efficiently than does chymotrypsin or the Pseudomonas aeruginosa protease LasB. Moreover, while glycosylation of N347 in the RCL limits these activities, N-glycans at other sites also appear to protect CBG from neutrophil elastase or chymotrypsin.