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Yu-Guang Ma, Liang Liang, Yin-Bin Zhang, Bao-Feng Wang, Yun-Gang Bai, Zhi-Jun Dai, Man-Jiang Xie and Zhong-Wei Wang

Hyperglycemia and hypertension are considered to be the two leading risk factors for vascular disease in diabetic patients. However, few pharmacologic agents could provide a combinational therapy for controlling hyperglycemia and hypertension at the same time in diabetes. The objectives of this study are to investigate whether berberine treatment could directly reduce blood pressure and identify the molecular mechanism underlying the vascular protection of berberine in diabetic rats. Berberine was intragastrically administered with different dosages of 50, 100 and 200 mg/kg/day to diabetic rats for 8 weeks since the injection of streptozotocin. The endothelium-dependent/-independent relaxation in middle cerebral arteries was investigated. The activity of large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel (BKCa) was investigated by recording whole-cell currents, analyzing single-channel activities and assessing the expressions of α- and β1-subunit at protein or mRNA levels. Results of the study suggest that chronic administration of 100 mg/kg/day berberine not only lowered blood glucose but also reduced blood pressure and improved vasodilation in diabetic rats. Furthermore, berberine markedly increased the function and expression of BKCa β1-subunit in cerebral vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) isolated from diabetic rats or when exposed to hyperglycemia condition. The present study provided initial evidences that berberine reduced blood pressure and improved vasodilation in diabetic rats by activation of BKCa channel in VSMCs, which suggested that berberine might provide a combinational therapy for controlling hyperglycemia and blood pressure in diabetes. Furthermore, our work indicated that activation of BKCa channel might be the underlying mechanism responsible for the vascular protection of berberine in diabetes.

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Leping Zhao, Yong Pan, Kesong Peng, Zhe Wang, Jieli Li, Dan Li, Chao Tong, Yi Wang and Guang Liang

11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) controls the production of active glucocorticoid (GC) and has been proposed as a new target for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. We have previously reported that a natural product, curcumin, exhibited moderate inhibition and selectivity on 11β-HSD1. By analyzing the models of protein, microsome, cells and GCs-induced mice in vitro and in vivo, this study presented a novel curcumin analog, LG13, as a potent selective 11β-HSD1 inhibitor. In vivo, Type 2 diabetic mice were treated with LG13 for 42 days to assess the pharmacological benefits of 11β-HSD1 inhibitor on hepatic glucose metabolism. In vitro studies revealed that LG13 selectively inhibited 11β-HSD1 with IC50 values at nanomolar level and high selectivity over 11β-HSD2. Targeting 11β-HSD1, LG13 could inhibit prednisone-induced adverse changes in mice, but had no effects on dexamethasone-induced ones. Further, the 11β-HSD1 inhibitors also suppressed 11β-HSD1 and GR expression, indicating a possible positive feedback system in the 11β-HSD1/GR cycle. In type 2 diabetic mice induced by high fat diet plus low-dosage STZ injection, oral administration with LG13 for 6 weeks significantly decreased fasting blood glucose, hepatic glucose metabolism, structural disorders, and lipid deposits. LG13 exhibited better pharmacological effects in vivo than insulin sensitizer pioglitazone and potential 11β-HSD1 inhibitor PF-915275. These pharmacological and mechanistic insights on LG13 also provide us novel agents, leading structures, and strategy for the development of 11β-HSD1 inhibitors treating metabolic syndromes.

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Peng Zhang, Sheng Wang, Liang Wang, Bing Chen Shan, Hui Zhang, Fan Yang, Zhi Qiang Zhou, Xiao Wang, Ye Yuan and You Jia Xu

Postmenopausal osteoporosis is a global health issue. Although a lack of estrogen is considered the major reason for postmenopausal osteoporosis, other factors might also contribute the etiology of the disease. In previous reports, we and others proposed that iron accumulation after menopause accelerates osteoporosis, and here, we genetically modified the expression of an endogenous hormone, hepcidin, to modulate iron status in a mouse model. Our results show that hepcidin levels negatively correlate with bone loss in both knockout and overexpression (with ovariectomy) murine models. In addition, iron overload enhances reactive oxygen species (ROS) activity and attenuates the functions of primary osteoblasts, while iron depletion could reverse this phenomenon through inhibiting the functions of primary osteoclasts. Therefore, our results provide more evidence of the ‘iron accumulation’ hypothesis, which suggests that high iron levels are risk factors for osteoporosis, and the ‘Huang’s hypothesis’ that hepcidin is a potential drug target for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis.

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Chunheng Mo, Long Huang, Lin Cui, Can Lv, Dongliang Lin, Liang Song, Guoqiang Zhu, Juan Li and Yajun Wang

The two structurally and functionally related peptides, gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) and neuromedin B (NMB) play critical roles in many physiological/pathological processes in mammals. However, the information regarding the expression and functionality of avian NMB, GRP and their receptors is limited. Here, we characterized cNMB, cGRP and their receptors (cNMBR, cGRPR and cBRS3) in chickens. Our results showed that: (1) cNMBR and cGRPR expressed in CHO cells could be potently activated by cNMB and cGRP, respectively, as monitored by cell-based luciferase reporter assays, indicating that cNMBR and cGRPR are cNMB- and cGRP-specific receptors; strikingly, BRS3 of chickens (/spotted gars), which is orthologous to mouse bombesin receptor subtype-3 (BRS3), could be potently activated by GRP and NMB, demonstrating that both peptides are the endogenous ligands for chicken (/spotted gar) BRS3; (2) quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) revealed that cGRPR is widely expressed in chicken tissues with abundant expression in the ovary, pancreas, proventriculus, spinal cord and brain, whereas cNMB, cNMBR and cBRS3 are mainly expressed in the brain and testes; (3) interestingly, qPCR, Western blot and immunostaining revealed that cGRP is predominantly expressed in the anterior pituitary and mainly localized to LH-cells, suggesting that cGRP is likely a novel pituitary hormone in chickens. In summary, our data help to uncover the roles of GRP, NMB and their receptors in birds, and provide the first persuasive evidence from an evolutionary prospective that in vertebrates, GRP and NMB are the endogenous ligands for BRS3, an orphan receptor that has puzzled endocrinologists for more than two decades.

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Kwang-Huei Lin, Chia-yu Chen, Shen-Liang Chen, Chun-Che Yen, Ya-Hui Huang, Chung-hsuan Shih, Jiann-Jong Shen, Rong-Chi Yang and Chia-Siu Wang

Thyroid hormones regulate growth, development, differentiation, and metabolic processes by interacting with and activating thyroid hormone receptors and associated pathways. We investigated the triiodothyronine (T3) modulation of gene expression, in human hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines, via a PCR-based cDNA subtraction method. Here we present further data on one of the T3-upregulated genes, fibronectin (FN). We demonstrate that the induction of FN protein expression by T3 in TRα1 and TRβ1 over-expressing cells was time and dose-dependent at the mRNA and protein levels. Blockade of protein synthesis by cycloheximide almost completely inhibited the concomitant induction of FN mRNA by T3, indicating that T3 indirectly regulates FN. Furthermore, nuclear-run on and FN promoter assay clearly can specifically increase the number of FN transcriptional demonstrated that the presence of T3 initiations. In addition, we further confirmed that the up-regulation of FN by T3 was mediated, at least in part, by transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), because the induction of FN was blocked in a dose-dependent manner by the addition of TGF-β neutralizing antibody. In an effort to elucidate the we demonstrated the involvement of the signaling pathways involved in the activation of FN by T3, mitogen activated protein kinase/c-Jun N-terminal kinase/p38 MAPK (MAPK/JNK/p38) pathway. Although T3 induces the expression of TGF-β, neither wild-type nor dominant-negative Smad3 or Smad4 over-expression affected the activation of FN by T3. Thus, we demonstrate that T3 regulates FN gene expression indirectly at the transcriptional level, with the participation of the MAPK/JNK/p38 pathway and the TGF-β signaling pathway but independent of Smad3/4.

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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.