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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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Syed Kashif Zaidi, Wen-Jun Shen, Stefanie Bittner, Alex Bittner, Mark P McLean, Jiahuai Han, Roger J Davis, Fredric B Kraemer, and Salman Azhar

STAR/StarD1, part of a protein complex, mediates the transport of cholesterol from the outer to inner mitochondrial membrane, which is the rate-limiting step for steroidogenesis, and where steroid hormone synthesis begins. Herein, we examined the role of oxidant-sensitive p38 MAPKs in the regulation of STAR gene transcription, using model steroidogenic cell lines. Our data indicate that oxidant activation of p38 MAPK exhibits a negative regulatory role in the induction of functional expression of STAR, as evidenced by enhanced induction of STAR (mRNA/protein) expression and increased steroidogenesis during pharmacological inhibition of p38 MAPK or in cells with increased transient overexpression of a dominant-negative (dn) form of p38 MAPKα or p38 MAPKβ. Studies with rat Star-promoter demonstrated that overexpression of p38 MAPKα-wt, -β, or -γ significantly reduced both basal and cAMP-sensitive promoter activity. In contrast, overexpression of p38 MAPKα-dn, -β, or -γ enhanced the Star promoter activity under basal conditions and in response to cAMP stimulation. Use of various constitutively active and dn constructs and designer knock-out cell lines demonstrated that MKK3 and MKK6, the upstream activators of p38 MAPKs, play a role in p38 MAPKα-mediated inhibition of Star promoter activity. In addition, our studies raised the possibility of CREB being a potential target of the p38 MAPK inhibitory effect on Star promoter activity. Collectively, these data provide novel mechanistic information about how oxidant-sensitive p38 MAPKs, particularly p38 MAPKα, contribute to the negative regulation of Star gene expression and inhibit steroidogenesis.