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CW Hay and K Docherty
Cell engineering or gene therapy may represent an alternative to current methods of treating diabetes mellitus. Cells could be engineered to secrete insulin ex vivo for transplantation or the insulin gene could be administered directly by injection into muscle. A problem has been that non-neuroendocrine cells lack the endoproteases (PC3/1 and PC2) that are responsible for the processing of proinsulin to insulin. This can be surmounted by engineering the paired basic amino acid processing sites within proinsulin to sites that would be recognized by the ubiquitously expressed protease, furin. However, in every study to date, the expression of the furin-cleavable construct was greatly reduced relative to that of the unmodified proinsulin construct. We investigated possible causes for this, including mRNA stability, the presence of additional CpG islands, and the amino acid substitutions within furin-cleavable proinsulin. Several furin-cleavable rat proinsulin I cDNAs were engineered and used to transfect human HEK293, rat L6 and mouse C(2)C(12) cell lines. The stability of wild-type and furin-cleavable proinsulin mRNA in transfected C(2)C(12) cells was measured by RT-PCR. Comparison of the decay rates in the presence of actinomycin D showed no significant difference between the two species of mRNA. A furin-cleavable proinsulin cDNA was created to contain the same distribution of CpG islands as wild-type proinsulin. Comparison of insulin-like immunoreactivity in all three cell lines transfected with either this construct or a widely used furin-cleavable proinsulin containing additional CpG islands showed that the presence of the extra CpG islands had no effect. Studies to examine amino acid substitutions used to create furin consensus sequences showed that the addition of basic residues at the C-peptide/A-chain junction was responsible for the reduced production of furin-cleavable proinsulin. Using this information, we engineered a cDNA for furin-cleavable rat proinsulin I that was efficiently processed to mature insulin and expressed at the same level as wild-type proinsulin.
S. W. Knight and K. Docherty
A comparison between species of the 5′ untranslated region of preproinsulin mRNA revealed conserved sequences associated with a potential stem—loop structure. The present study was undertaken to determine whether specific protein interactions exist with mRNA sequences involved in the formation or stabilization of this structure in the 5′ untranslated region. 32P-Labelled RNA probes corresponding to sequences from this region were synthesized by an in-vitro transcription reaction and used in electrophoretic mobility shift and u.v.-crosslinking studies with cytoplasmic protein extracts from a number of cell lines. Specific protein—RNA interactions were mapped to a sequence located between nucleotides –21 and –50 upstream of the AUG start codon. A number of proteins of molecular mass 25kDa, 40kDa, 46kDa, 58kDa, 69kDa, 97kDa, 110kDa and 160kDa were specifically crosslinked to this sequence. The observed specific protein—RNA interactions in the 5′ untranslated region may affect the activity of preproinsulin mRNA.
M Blazquez, K Docherty, and KI Shennan
Prohormone convertase 3 (PC3) is a neuroendocrine-specific member of the subtilisin-kexin family, involved in the intracellular processing and maturation of prohormones and proneuropeptides. PC3 is synthesised as a proprotein that undergoes two different cleavages resulting in the mature PC3 and the enzymatically active PC3DeltaC. In vitro translated proPC3 and proPC3DeltaC bind to trans-Golgi network (TGN)/granule-enriched membranes from the AtT20 neuroendocrine cell line in a pH-dependent manner suggesting both a dominant role for the pro-region in membrane association and that the C-terminal region is not essential. However, while PC3 bound to membranes the majority of PC3DeltaC did not, suggesting that either the pro-region or the C-terminal region of PC3 is required for membrane association. Removal of peripheral membrane proteins did not affect the binding properties of any of the in vitro translated proteins. Chromaffin granule membranes (CGMs) were used to study the binding characteristics of endogenous PC3 and its active C-terminal truncated counterpart (PC3DeltaC). Incubation of CGMs with Triton X-100 did not completely solubilise either of these forms of PC3. Moreover, both PC3 and PC3DeltaC remained associated with detergent-resistant membrane microdomains, termed lipid rafts, purified from CGMs. The data raise the possibility that PC3 and PC3DeltaC are sorted to the regulated secretory pathway via their association with membrane lipid rafts.
EL Davies, KI Shennan, K Docherty, and CJ Bailey
The importance of the glucose transporter isoform, GLUT2, in the construction of glucose-sensitive surrogate insulin-secreting cells was evaluated using murine pituitary AtT20 cells. The cells were double transfected with cDNAs for human preproinsulin (hppI-1) driven by the cytomegalovirus promoter, and human GLUT2 driven by the beta-actin promoter. The stably transfected clone, AtTinsGLUT2.36, which strongly expressed both the hppI-1 and GLUT2 genes, constitutively released 7.5 ng/10(6) cells/24 h of immunoreactive insulin-like material, 75% of which was fully processed mature human insulin. Increasing glucose concentrations in the subphysiological range up to 50 microM increased insulin release, but greater glucose concentrations did not further increase insulin release. Suppression of the low-K(m) glucose-phosphorylating enzyme, hexokinase, with 2-deoxy-D-glucose increased glucose-stimulated insulin release by two- to threefold in the presence of subphysiological and physiological glucose concentrations up to 10 mM. Physiological glucose concentrations increased the amount of GLUT2 mRNA, indicating that the beta-actin promoter responds in a glucose-dependent manner. Implantation of 2 x 10(7) AtTinsGLUT2.36 cells intraperitoneally into streptozotocin-diabetic nude mice slowed the progression of hyperglycaemia. The implanted cells formed vascularised tumour-like cell aggregates attached to the peritoneum. The results demonstrate that the beta-actin promoter is partially regulated by glucose. Expression of GLUT2 enables glucose to enter the cell at high K(m), but high-K(m) glucose phosphorylation is also required to signal glucose-stimulated genes affecting insulin release.
M. C. U. Hammond-Kosack, M. W. Kilpatrick, and K. Docherty
An altered DNA structure exists within the hypervariable region located 360 bp upstream of the human insulin gene. The aim of the present study was to determine whether this structure exists in the insulin gene in vivo, and whether its presence is related to the expression of the insulin gene. However, since there were no clonal human β-cell lines available for such studies, the human insulin gene was transfected into a rat insulinoma-derived β-cell line and several human insulin-expressing clones were selected. One such cell line was treated in vivo with the DNA structural probe bromoacetaldehyde and the chromosomal DNA was extracted. Following digestion with TaqI and subsequent digestion with S1-nuclease to cleave at the bromoacetaldehydereactive sites, the DNA was subjected to agarose gel electrophoresis, and insulin gene fragments were detected by Southern blot analysis. Bromoacetaldehyde generated subfragments of 2500, 1700 and 800 bp in the human insulin gene isolated from the rat β-cell line, while the human insulin gene in the non-expressing HeLa cell line was unreactive to bromoacetaldehyde. These results suggest that an altered structure might exist in the insulin gene-linked polymorphic region of the human insulin gene in vivo, and that this structure may play a role in the expression of the insulin gene.
M C U Hammond-Kosack, M W Kilpatrick, and K Docherty
The insulin gene-linked polymorphic region (ILPR), located 363 bp upstream of the human insulin gene, is composed of tandem repeats of the consensus sequence ACAGGGGT(G/C)(T/C)GGGG. It has previously been shown that an insulin gene fragment containing the ILPR adopts an altered DNA structure in vitro. Furthermore, oligonucleotides containing the consensus repeat sequence exhibit multiple quadriplex DNA structures. The present study was undertaken to determine whether such altered DNA structures existed within the ILPR when the insulin gene was assembled into chromatin in vitro. Chromatin assembly was achieved using histones and an extract from unfertilized eggs from Xenopus laevis. The presence of altered DNA conformations within the 5′ region of the human insulin gene was investigated using the structural probe nuclease P1. Nuclease P1 recognized multiple distinct sites in the 5′ flanking region of the human insulin gene in naked DNA. Most of these sites disappeared when the recombinant plasmid DNA was treated with histones and unfertilized egg extract. In the assembled DNA, the ILPR appeared as the major site of nuclease P1 hypersensitivity. Fine-mapping of the multiple reactive sites within the ILPR showed a pattern characteristic of G-quartet foldback structures similar to those that have been observed for telomeric DNA.
C Stewart, N A Taylor, K Docherty, and C J Bailey
The feasibility of somatic cell gene therapy as a method of insulin delivery has been studied in mice. Murine pituitary AtT20 cells were transfected with a human preproinsulin DNA in a plasmid containing a metallothionein promoter and a gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic G418. The AtT20MtIns-1·4 clone of cells was selected because of its higher insulin-releasing activity compared with other clones. After culturing for 24 h in Dulbecco's medium containing 10 mM glucose, the AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells released human insulin at about 5 ng/106 cells per 24 h. Insulin release was not significantly altered by raised concentrations of glucose, potassium or calcium, but insulin release was increased by 20 mm arginine, 5 mm isomethylbutylxanthine and 90 μm zinc.
AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells (2 × 106) were implanted intraperitoneally into non-diabetic athymic nude (nu/nu) mice, and the mice were made diabetic by injection of streptozotocin after 7 days. Release of human insulin in vivo was assessed using a specific plasma human C-peptide assay. Human C-peptide concentrations were maintained at about 01 pmol/ml throughout the 29 days of the study. The development of streptozotocin-induced hyperglycaemia was delayed in recipients of the cells releasing human insulin, compared with a control group receiving an implant of non-transfected cells. At autopsy the implanted AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells in each recipient had formed a tumour-like aggregation, with an outer region of insulin-containing cells. The study suggests that somatic cell gene therapy offers a feasible approach to insulin delivery.
S. D. Abbot, K. Docherty, and R. N. Clayton
To determine the physiological role of the ovaries in regulation of LH subunit gene expression, levels of cytoplasmic mRNA were measured in a cDNA-RNA dot-blot hybridization assay. An increase (twofold) in α mRNA was first detected 8 days after ovariectomy and then remained stable for 4 weeks. In contrast, LH-β mRNA increased by 60–79% within 12 h of removing the ovaries and then rose progressively to six times the intact values at 3 and 4 weeks. Increases in LH-β mRNA were always greater than those of α mRNA. Oestradiol, and oestradiol plus progesterone, but not progesterone alone, prevented the rise in α and LH-β mRNA 10 days after ovariectomy.
Three days after ovariectomy, α mRNA, but not LH-β mRNA, was suppressed to below intact control values by oestradiol and oestradiol plus progesterone, indicating greater sensitivity of α mRNA to oestradiol inhibition at this stage. A single injection of oestradiol (1 μg s.c.) to rats ovariectomized 14 days previously transiently suppressed α and LH-β mRNA levels and serum LH concentrations in parallel for 1–8 h, after which high preinjection values were restored. However, pituitary LH content remained suppressed after LH mRNA levels had returned to the control values of ovariectomized rats.
In most instances there was a qualitative positive correlation between changes in α and LH-β mRNA, pituitary LH content and serum LH concentrations. LH content reflected LH-β mRNA changes more closely than those of α mRNA. However, in oestradiol-treated rats ovariectomized 10 days previously, LH content remained increased despite normalization of the LH-β and α mRNA levels, suggesting differential sensitivity to oestradiol of the gene expression and translational processes. Thus divergence of pre- and post-translational regulation of LH biosynthesis was demonstrated. These results imply an important physiological role for female sex hormones in the control of LH gene expression and LH biosynthesis.
Prolactin mRNA fell by 30–50% for the first 2 weeks after ovariectomy, but by 3 and 4 weeks values were similar to those of intact controls. Serum and pituitary prolactin levels were reduced by 50% or more at all time-points, despite normalization of mRNA. Treatment of ovariectomized rats for 10 days with oestradiol and progesterone, either alone or combined, reversed the fall in prolactin mRNA and serum and pituitary prolactin levels. These changes in prolactin gene expression and synthesis were opposite to those of LH subunits in response to the same in-vivo hormone manipulations.
Growth hormone mRNA levels were unchanged by ovariectomy, oestradiol or progesterone treatment. Levels of TSH-β mRNA increased slightly (maximum up to 50%) after ovariectomy, but were unaltered by oestradiol and progesterone treatment for 10 days. These results support the view that α mRNA changes, resulting from ovariectomy, oestradiol and progesterone treatment, occur in gonadotrophs and not thyrotrophs, which also express the α subunit gene.
S. D. Abbot, K. Docherty, and R. N. Clayton
The control of anterior pituitary hormone gene expression by testosterone in male rat pituitaries in vivo was investigated using dot-blot mRNA-cDNA hybridization assays.
Common α subunit mRNA levels doubled by 2 days after orchidectomy and rose progressively to reach plateau levels three to four times intact control values by 2 weeks. LH-β mRNA increased significantly (≃50%) within 12h, and thereafter progressively to seven times intact control values by 3 weeks after orchidectomy. The changes in α mRNA were likely to have occurred in gonadotrophs and not thyrotrophs, since TSH-β mRNA levels were unaltered by orchidectomy. LH subunit mRNA changes were accompanied by an initial (1–4 days) decrease in pituitary LH content; thereafter, pituitary LH increased in parallel with and by a similar magnitude to the LH-β mRNA. Serum LH rises occurred before significant increases in LH subunit mRNA after orchidectomy. The lack of temporal correlation between mRNA levels and serum and pituitary LH in the early stages after removal of testosterone feedback contrasts with the good correlation when a new steady state was achieved after 3–4 weeks, and indicates differing kinetics for changes in these aspects of gonadotroph function.
An inhibitory effect of testosterone on LH subunit gene expression was confirmed by prevention of the rise in α and LH-β mRNAs when treatment commenced immediately after castration. However, pituitary LH content and serum LH levels were reduced relative to control values, suggesting additional inhibitory actions of testosterone on translational and post-translational events in gonadotrophs. A stimulatory effect of testosterone on α mRNA levels was observed between 4 and 24 h after a single injection in rats castrated 2 weeks previously, no effect being seen on LH-β mRNA. The mechanism for this action remains to be elucidated. Gene specificity of testosterone action was confirmed by unaltered levels of mRNA for prolactin, GH, TSH-β subunit and actin under all experimental conditions. No changes in pituitary content of prolactin or GH were found. We conclude that regulation of LH subunit gene expression by testosterone is an important step in control of gonadotrophin synthesis and availability for release.