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Fadil M Hannan, Valerie N Babinsky, and Rajesh V Thakker

The extracellular calcium (Ca2+ o)-sensing receptor (CaSR) is a family C G protein-coupled receptor, which detects alterations in Ca2+ o concentrations and modulates parathyroid hormone secretion and urinary calcium excretion. The central role of the CaSR in Ca2+ o homeostasis has been highlighted by the identification of mutations affecting the CASR gene on chromosome 3q21.1. Loss-of-function CASR mutations cause familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia (FHH), whereas gain-of-function mutations lead to autosomal dominant hypocalcaemia (ADH). However, CASR mutations are only detected in ≤70% of FHH and ADH cases, referred to as FHH type 1 and ADH type 1, respectively, and studies in other FHH and ADH kindreds have revealed these disorders to be genetically heterogeneous. Thus, loss- and gain-of-function mutations of the GNA11 gene on chromosome 19p13.3, which encodes the G-protein α-11 (Gα11) subunit, lead to FHH type 2 and ADH type 2, respectively; whilst loss-of-function mutations of AP2S1 on chromosome 19q13.3, which encodes the adaptor-related protein complex 2 sigma (AP2σ) subunit, cause FHH type 3. These studies have demonstrated Gα11 to be a key mediator of downstream CaSR signal transduction, and also revealed a role for AP2σ, which is involved in clathrin-mediated endocytosis, in CaSR signalling and trafficking. Moreover, FHH type 3 has been demonstrated to represent a more severe FHH variant that may lead to symptomatic hypercalcaemia, low bone mineral density and cognitive dysfunction. In addition, calcimimetic and calcilytic drugs, which are positive and negative CaSR allosteric modulators, respectively, have been shown to be of potential benefit for these FHH and ADH disorders.

Open access

Kate E Lines, Anna K Gluck, Supat Thongjuea, Chas Bountra, Rajesh V Thakker, and Caroline M Gorvin

Corticotrophinomas represent 10% of all surgically removed pituitary adenomas, however, current treatment options are often not effective, and there is a need for improved pharmacological treatments. Recently, JQ1+, a bromodomain inhibitor that promotes gene transcription by binding acetylated histone residues and recruiting transcriptional machinery, has been shown to reduce proliferation in a murine corticotroph cell line, AtT20. RNA-Seq analysis of AtT20 cells following treatment with JQ1+ identified the calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) gene as significantly downregulated, which was subsequently confirmed using real-time PCR and Western blot analysis. CaSR is a G protein-coupled receptor that plays a central role in calcium homeostasis but can elicit non-calcitropic effects in multiple tissues, including the anterior pituitary where it helps regulate hormone secretion. However, in AtT20 cells, CaSR activates a tumour-specific cAMP pathway that promotes ACTH and PTHrP hypersecretion. We hypothesised that the Casr promoter may harbour binding sites for BET proteins, and using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-sequencing demonstrated that the BET protein Brd3 binds to the promoter of the Casr gene. Assessment of CaSR signalling showed that JQ1+ significantly reduced Ca2+ e-mediated increases in intracellular calcium (Ca2+ i) mobilisation and cAMP signalling. However, the CaSR-negative allosteric modulator, NPS-2143, was unable to reduce AtT20 cell proliferation, indicating that reducing CaSR expression rather than activity is likely required to reduce pituitary cell proliferation. Thus, these studies demonstrate that reducing CaSR expression may be a viable option in the treatment of pituitary tumours. Moreover, current strategies to reduce CaSR activity, rather than protein expression for cancer treatments, may be ineffective.