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Xun Cao, Xiao Zhou, Xiao-Min Liu and Li-Hong Zhou

Liraglutide, a human glucagon-like peptide (GLP1) analog that partially inhibits dipeptidyl-peptidase 4 (DPP4), can decrease glucose levels and suppress appetite in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM). GLP1 and its receptor (GLP1R) also exist in the taste buds of rodents and regulate taste sensitivity. DPP4, a protease, functions in homeostasis of blood glucose, lipids, and body weight. Interactions among GLP1, GLP1R, and DPP4 likely affect taste and food-intake behavior. The aim of the present study was to investigate DPP4 expression in the taste buds of the circumvallate papillae (CV) in T2DM rats, and determine the effects of liraglutide treatment. Rats were divided into diabetic control (T2DM-C), normal control (NC), and liraglutide-treated diabetic (T2DM+LIR) groups. DPP4 localization and gene expression levels were evaluated by immunohistochemistry and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), respectively. DPP4 immunoreactive cells were localized in the taste buds of the rat CV. RT-qPCR showed significantly higher expression of Dpp4 mRNA in both the taste buds and hypothalamus of T2DM-C rats compared with NC rats. However, in the T2DM+LIR group, Dpp4 expression differed between the taste buds and hypothalamus, with significantly higher and lower levels compared with the T2DM-C group, respectively. Dpp4 mRNA expression is increased in the taste buds of the CV of T2DM rats. Liraglutide simultaneously upregulated (taste buds) and downregulated (hypothalamus) Dpp4 expression in T2DM rats. Therefore, DPP4 may be closely associated with the anorexigenic signaling and weight loss induced by the treatment of liraglutide in type 2 diabetic patients.

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Hong Zhao, Ling Zhou, Anna Junjie Shangguan and Serdar E Bulun

Long-term exposure to excess estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer and type 1 endometrial cancer. Most of the estrogen in premenopausal women is synthesized by the ovaries, while extraovarian subcutaneous adipose tissue is the predominant tissue source of estrogen after menopause. Estrogen and its metabolites can cause hyperproliferation and neoplastic transformation of breast and endometrial cells via increased proliferation and DNA damage. Several genetically modified mouse models have been generated to help understand the physiological and pathophysiological roles of aromatase and estrogen in the normal breast and in the development of breast cancers. Aromatase, the key enzyme for estrogen production, is comprised of at least ten partially tissue-selective and alternatively used promoters. These promoters are regulated by distinct signaling pathways to control aromatase expression and estrogen formation via recruitment of various transcription factors to their cis-regulatory elements. A shift in aromatase promoter use from I.4 to I.3/II is responsible for the excess estrogen production seen in fibroblasts surrounding malignant epithelial cells in breast cancers. Targeting these distinct pathways and/or transcription factors to modify aromatase activity may lead to the development of novel therapeutic remedies that inhibit estrogen production in a tissue-specific manner.

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Liran Zhou, Hong Wu, Peng Lee and Zhengxin Wang

Various cofactors have been shown to regulate androgen receptor (AR) transactivation, but their physiological functions in the AR pathway and prostate tumorigenesis are undefined. Here, we found that AR cofactor (p44) translocation from the nucleus to the cytoplasm in prostate epithelial cells (ECs) is associated with prostate tumorigenesis. The forced nuclear localization of p44 inhibited prostate cancer cell growth by G1 cell-cycle arrest. Consistently, mice lacking one allele of the p44 gene developed prostatic hyperplasia. Therefore, p44 is required for proper expression of AR-target genes to maintain the differentiation of prostate ECs, and p44 translocation from the nucleus into the cytoplasm in prostate cancer cells or loss of one allele in mouse results in excessive prostate EC proliferation.

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Hong Zhou, Yonghua Jiang, Wendy K W Ko, Wensheng Li and Anderson O L Wong

Growth hormone (GH) is known to stimulate luteinizing hormone (LH) release via paracrine interactions between somatotrophs and gonadotrophs. However, it is unclear if LH can exert a reciprocal effect to modulate somatotroph functions. Here we examined the paracrine effects of LH on GH gene expression using grass carp pituitary cells as a cell model. LH receptors were identified in grass carp somatotrophs and their activation by human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) increased ‘steady-state’ GH mRNA levels. Removal of endogenous LH by immunoneutralization using LH antiserum inhibited GH release and GH mRNA expression. GH secretagogues, including gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH), pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) and apomorphine, were effective in elevating GH mRNA levels but these stimulatory actions were blocked by LH antiserum. In pituitary cells pretreated with actinomycin D, the half-life of GH mRNA was not affected by hCG but was enhanced by LH immunoneutralization. Treatment with LH antiserum also suppressed basal levels of mature GH mRNA and primary transcripts. hCG increased cAMP synthesis in carp pituitary cells and hCG-induced GH mRNA expression was mimicked by forskolin but suppressed by inhibiting adenylate cyclase and protein kinase A. Similarly, the stimulatory actions of hCG and forskolin on GH mRNA expression were blocked by inhibiting Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) and MAP kinase (MAPK), including P42/44MAPK and P38 MAPK. These results suggest that LH is essential for the maintenance of GH release, GH gene expression, and somatotroph responsiveness to GH-releasing factors. The paracrine actions of LH on GH mRNA expression are mediated by a concurrent increase in GH gene transcription and GH mRNA turnover, probably through JAK2/MAPK coupled to the cAMP-dependent pathway.

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Shen Gao, Hua Wang, Peng Lee, Jonathan Melamed, Caihong X Li, Fahao Zhang, Hong Wu, Liran Zhou and Zhengxin Wang

Androgen receptor (AR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that mediates the action of androgens and is essential for the growth, function, and cell differentiation of the prostate gland. Here, we demonstrated that the prostate apoptosis response factor-4 (par-4) functions as a novel AR coactivator. Par-4 physically interacted with the DNA-binding domain of AR, enhanced AR interaction with DNA, and increased AR-dependent transcription. Par-4 enhanced the c-FLIP promoter activity and was recruited on to the c-FLIP gene in the presence of androgens, and the dominant-negative par-4 decreased c-FLIP expression. These results suggest that, in addition to its proapoptotic function, par-4 acts as a novel transcription cofactor for AR to target c-FLIP gene expression. In addition, we demonstrated that loss of c-FLIP expression was essential for castration-induced apoptosis in the prostate gland and that enhanced c-FLIP expression was associated with prostate cancer progression to the androgen-resistant stage. Our data shed light on a transcription-mediated mechanism for the effects of the AR pathway on cell survival and apoptosis.

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Ting-Ting Zhou, Fei Ma, Xiao-Fan Shi, Xin Xu, Te Du, Xiao-Dan Guo, Gai-Hong Wang, Liang Yu, Vatcharin Rukachaisirikul, Li-Hong Hu, Jing Chen and Xu Shen

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a chronic metabolic disease with complicated pathogenesis and targeting gluconeogenesis inhibition is a promising strategy for anti-diabetic drug discovery. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are classified as distinct families by heterotrimeric G proteins, primarily including Gαs, Gαi and Gαq. Gαs-coupled GPCRs function potently in the regulation of hepatic gluconeogenesis by activating cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)/protein kinase A (PKA) pathway and Gαi-coupled GPCRs exhibit inhibitory effect on adenylyl cyclase and reduce intracellular cAMP level. However, little is known about the regulation of Gαq-coupled GPCRs in hepatic gluconeogenesis. Here, small-molecule 2-(2,4-dimethoxy-3-methylphenyl)-7-(thiophen-2-yl)-9-(trifluoromethyl)-2,3-dihydropyrido[3′,2′:4,5]thieno[3,2-d]pyrimidin-4(1H)-one (DMT) was determined to suppress hepatic glucose production and reduce mRNA levels of gluconeogenic genes. Treatment of DMT in db/db mice decreased fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) levels, while improved glucose tolerance and pyruvate tolerance. Mechanism study demonstrated that DMT-inhibited gluconeogenesis by regulating the Gαq/phospholipase C (PLC)/inositol-1,4,5-triphosphate receptor (IP3R)-mediated calcium (Ca2+)/calmodulin (CaM)/phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (AKT)/forkhead box protein O1 (FOXO1) signaling pathway. To our knowledge, DMT might be the first reported small molecule able to suppress hepatic gluconeogenesis by regulating Gαq signaling, and our current work has also highlighted the potential of DMT in the treatment of T2DM.

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Yun-Qing Zhu, Yun Hu, Ke He, Na Li, Peng Jiang, Yu-Qin Pan, Hong Zhou and Xiao-Ming Mao

The follicles are the minimal functional unit of the thyroid; the morphology and the function of each follicle can vary significantly. However, the reasons for the apparent follicular heterogeneity are poorly understood. Some tissue-resident regulatory T cells (Tregs) have a special phenotype that expresses unique molecules related to local tissue and regulates the tissue functions. The aim of this study was to identify the phenotype of thyroid Tregs and the roles of thyroid Tregs in thyroid physiological regulation. Thyroid tissue and peripheral blood samples were obtained from patients with benign thyroid nodules. Microarray-based gene expression, flow cytometry, immunofluorescence microscopy, and functional analysis of thyroid Tregs were performed. Here, we demonstrated that human thyroid Tregs expressed high level of thyroglobulin (Tg), both gene and protein. The immunofluorescence microscopy of thyroid section showed that the FOXP3+Tg+ cells concentrated in some of the thyroid follicles, at the side of the thyroid follicle. The peripheral blood Tregs expressed minimal levels of Tg, and low levels of Tg could effectively induce peripheral blood Tregs to express Tg, which was independent of thyrotropin simulation. Furthermore, the Tg secreted freely from thyroid Tregs that negatively regulated some thyroid-related genes expression. Our results revealed that the thyroid Tregs was a distinct population of Tregs, which expressed high level of Tg. The thyroid Tregs regulate thyroid function by Tg that is paracrine from the cells.

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Xin-wei Chen, Ye-hong Li, Meng-jun Zhang, Zhou Chen, Dian-shan Ke, Ying Xue and Jian-ming Hou

Lactoferrin (LF) is an iron-binding glycoprotein that plays an important role in promoting bone formation and inhibiting bone resorption; however, its effects on senile osteoporosis remain unknown. This study aimed to investigate the effects and mechanism of LF intervention using a senile osteoporosis model (SAMP6 mice) and senescent osteoblasts. Micro-CT and hematoxylin and eosin staining demonstrated that the intragastric administration (2 g/kg/day) of LF could improve the bone mass and microstructure of SAMP6 mice. Furthermore, LF treatment improved bone metabolism and increased insulin-like growth factor 1 (Igf1) mRNA expression and activated phosphorylation status of AKT. Using osteoblasts passaged for ten generations as an in vitro senescence model, various markers associated with osteoblast formation and differentiation, as well as related indices of oxidative stress were analyzed. Our results revealed that after multiple generations, osteoblasts entered senescence, in conjunction with increased oxidative stress damage, reduced bone metabolism and enhanced expression of aging-related markers. While inhibiting oxidative stress, LF improved osteoblast proliferation by promoting the expression of osteogenesis markers, including alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, Igf1, bone gla protein (Bglap) and osteoprotegerin/receptor activator of nuclear factor-kB ligand (Opg/Rankl) mRNA and delayed senescence by decreasing the level of p16 and p21 expression. RNAI-mediated downregulation of IGF1 attenuated the effect of LF on osteogenesis. Therefore, the findings of the present study indicate that LF may promote osteogenesis via IGF1 signaling, thereby preventing senile osteoporosis.