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Wen-Li Zhao, Chun-Yan Liu, Wen Liu, Di Wang, Jin-Xing Wang and Xiao-Fan Zhao

Insect molting and metamorphosis are regulated by two hormones: 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) and juvenile hormone (JH). The hormone 20E regulates gene transcription via the nuclear receptor EcR to promote metamorphosis, whereas JH regulates gene transcription via its intracellular receptor methoprene-tolerant (Met) to prevent larval–pupal transition. However, the function and mechanism of Met in various insect developments are not well understood. We propose that Met1 plays a key role in maintaining larval status not only by promoting JH-responsive gene transcription but also by repressing 20E-responsive gene transcription in the Lepidopteran insect Helicoverpa armigera. Met1 protein is increased during feeding stage and decreased during molting and metamorphic stages. Met1 is upregulated by JH III and a low concentration of 20E independently, but is downregulated by a high concentration of 20E. Knockdown of Met1 in larvae causes precocious pupation, decrease in JH pathway gene expression, and increase in 20E pathway gene expression. Met1 interacts with heat shock protein 90 and binds to JH response element to regulate Krüppel homolog 1 transcription in JH III induction. Met1 interacts with ultraspiracle protein 1 (USP1) to repress 20E transcription complex EcRB1/USP1 formation and binding to ecdysone response element. These data indicate that JH via Met1 regulates JH pathway gene expression and represses 20E pathway gene expression to maintain the larval status.

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Ke-feng Yang, Wei Cai, Jia-li Xu and Wen Shi

Maternal high-fat (HF) diets during gestation and lactation have been shown to contribute to metabolic disorders in offspring. Molecular and epigenetic mechanisms underlying this connection may be essential for the prevention and treatment of the fetal origins of metabolic diseases. The current study examined the impact of maternal HF diets on Wnt signaling and histone modification in offspring. Time-pregnant Sprague–Dawley rats were fed either control diet or HF diet during gestation and lactation and then the neonatal offspring of both groups were investigated. The neonatal offspring born to dams fed on HF diets exhibited increases in serum glucose and liver triglyceride levels. Maternal exposure to the HF diet also repressed the mRNA expression of Wnt1 and nuclear β-catenin protein in the liver of offspring. The altered Wnt1 gene expression may be due to the changes of acetylation of H4 at its promoter as well as acetylation of H4 and methylation of H3K9 at coding region. Maternal exposure to the HF diet induced suppression of the Wnt /β-catenin signaling pathway through histone modification, potentially increasing the risk of metabolic syndrome.

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Yi Lu, Wang-sheng Wang, Yi-kai Lin, Jiang-wen Lu, Wen-jiao Li, Chu-yue Zhang and Kang Sun

Our previous studies have demonstrated that human fetal membranes are capable of de novo synthesis of serum amyloid A1 (SAA1), an acute phase protein of inflammation, wherein SAA1 may participate in parturition by inducing a number of inflammation mediators including interleukine-1β, interleukine-6 and prostaglandin E2. However, the regulation of SAA1 expression in the fetal membranes remains largely unknown. In the current study, we examined the regulation of SAA1 expression by cortisol, a crucial steroid produced locally in the fetal membranes at parturition, and the interaction between cortisol and SAA1 in the feed-forward induction of SAA1 expression in human amnion fibroblasts. Results showed that cortisol-induced SAA1 expression in a concentration-dependent manner, which was greatly enhanced by SAA1 despite modest induction of SAA1 expression by itself. Mechanism studies revealed that the induction of SAA1 expression by cortisol and SAA1 was blocked by either the transcription factor STAT3 antagonist AZD0530 or siRNA-mediated knockdown of STAT3. Furthermore, cortisol- and SAA1-induced STAT3 phosphorylation in a sequential order with the induction by SAA1 preceding the induction by cortisol. However, combination of cortisol and SAA1 failed to further intensify the phosphorylation of STAT3. Consistently, cortisol and SAA1 increased the enrichment of STAT3 at the SAA1 promoter. Taking together, this study has demonstrated that cortisol and SAA1 can reinforce each other in the induction of SAA1 expression through sequential phosphorylation of STAT3. The enhancement of cortisol-induced SAA1 expression by SAA1 may lead to excessive SAA1 accumulation resulting in parturition-associated inflammation in the fetal membranes.

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Tzu-Ying Lee, Ke-Li Tsai, Wen-Sen Lee and Chin Hsu

Previously, we showed that predominant expression of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor in the neurons of the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area of male rats plays an important role in preventing neurons from apoptosis during sexual development. Blocking of the NMDA receptor by dizocilpine ((+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d] cyclohepten-5,10-iminemaleate (MK-801) causes down-regulation of some survival-related genes including cytochrome oxidase subunit II (COII), a mitochondria-encoded complex IV subunit, which in turn induces ATP depletion and the occurrence of apoptosis. The aim of this study is to investigate the molecular events during down-regulation of the COII gene expression induced by blocking of the NMDA receptor. Treatment of the GnRH cell line (GT1-7) with MK-801 caused 1) a decrease of intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) after 20 h; 2) significant decreases of the levels of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γcoactivator-1 (PGC-1) mRNA and protein after 24 h; 3) down-regulation of COII mRNA after 36 h; and 4) the occurrence of neuronal apoptosis after 48 h. Accordingly, we hypothesize that blocking of the NMDA receptor may cause a decrease of the [Ca2+]i, which in turn inhibits the expressions of PGC-1 and COII and then leads to subsequent neuronal apoptosis.

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Ling Wang, Yu-Dong Wang, Wen-Jun Wang, Ying Zhu and Da-Jin Li

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may be a promising agent for postmenopausal osteoporosis (PMO), but its mechanism to modulate osteoblasts (OBs) is yet to be explained. To elucidate the effects of DHEA treatment on the ovariectomized (OVX) mice and its mechanisms, we evaluated the morphology of mice bone tissue and expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) in the vertebrae-derived OB after having treated the OVX animals with DHEA. The results showed that DHEA administration increased the expression of PCNA in OB and changed the bone tissue morphometry of the PMO model. To further investigate this mechanism, the OB was isolated from neonatal mice calvariae by the enzyme-digested assay, exposed to DHEA, and then analyzed for ultrastructure, DNA content, early apoptotic cells, and phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2. It was found that DHEA promoted proliferation and inhibited apoptosis of OB significantly, via mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway independent of either androgen receptor or estrogen receptor, suggesting that it may exert roles via a DHEA-specific receptor directly, not by way of conversion to androgens or estrogens.

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Yingkai Sun, Rui Wang, Shaoqian Zhao, Wen Li, Wen Liu, Lingyun Tang, Zhugang Wang, Weiqing Wang, Ruixin Liu, Guang Ning, Jiqiu Wang and Jie Hong

Browning of white adipose tissue has been proven to be a potential target to fight against obesity and its metabolic commodities, making the exploration of molecules involved in browning process important. Among those browning agents reported recently, FGF21 play as a quite promising candidate for treating obesity for its obvious enhancement of thermogenic capacity in adipocyte and significant improvement of metabolic disorders in both mice and human. However, whether other members of fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family play roles in adipose thermogenesis and obese development is still an open question. Here, we examined the mRNA expression of all FGF family members in three adipose tissues of male C57BL/6 mice and found that FGF9 is highly expressed in adipose tissue and decreased under cold stress. Furthermore, FGF9 treatment inhibited thermogenic genes in the process of beige adipocytes differentiation from stromal vascular fraction (SVF) in a dose-dependent manner. Similar results were obtained with FGF9 overexpression. Consistently, knockdown of FGF9 in SVF cells by using lentiviral shRNA increased thermogenic genes in differentiated beige adipocytes. RNA sequencing analysis revealed a significant increment of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway in the early stage of beige adipocytes differentiation under FGF9 treatment, which was validated by real-time PCR. FGF9 expression was increased in subcutaneous WAT of obese human and mice. This study shows that adipose-derived FGF9 play as an inhibitory role in the browning of white adipocytes. Activation of hypoxia signaling at early stage of adipose browning process may contribute to this anti-thermogenic effect of FGF9.

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Yan-ping Xu, Jia-jun Zhu, Fen Cheng, Ke-wen Jiang, Wei-zhong Gu, Zheng Shen, Yi-dong Wu, Li Liang and Li-zhong Du

Effective treatment and/or prevention strategies for neonatal persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) have been an important topic in neonatal medicine. However, mechanisms of impaired pulmonary vascular structure in hypoxia-induced PPHN are poorly understood and consequently limit the development of effective treatment. In this study, we aimed to explore the molecular signaling cascades in the lungs of a PPHN animal model and used primary cultured rat pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells to analyze the physiological benefits of ghrelin during the pathogenesis of PPHN. Randomly selected newborn rats were exposed to hypoxia (10–12%) or room air and received daily s.c. injections of ghrelin (150 μg/kg) or saline. After 2 weeks, pulmonary hemodynamics and morphometry were assessed in the rats. Compared with the control, hypoxia increased pulmonary arterial pressure, right ventricle (RV) hypertrophy, and arteriolar wall thickness. Ghrelin treatment reduced both the magnitude of PH and the RV/(left ventricle+septum (Sep)) weight ratio. Ghrelin protected neonatal rats from hypoxia-induced PH via the upregulation of phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase 3β (p-GSK3β)/β-catenin signaling and associated with β-catenin translocation to the nucleus in the presence of growth hormone secretagogue receptor-1a. Our findings suggest that s.c. administration of ghrelin improved PH and attenuated pulmonary vascular remodeling after PPHN. These beneficial effects may be mediated by the regulation of p-GSK3β/β-catenin expression. We propose ghrelin as a novel potential therapeutic agent for PPHN.

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Rong-Ying Li, Xue-Song Li, Li Shao, Zhi-yuan Wu, Wen-Hua Du, Sheng-Xian Li, Shuang-xia Zhao, Ke-min Chen, Ming-Dao Chen and Huai-Dong Song

Although circulating ghrelin levels correlate inversely with adiposity at baseline, little is known about the effect of percent visceral adipose tissue value (PVATV) on ghrelin expression and secretion in response to fasting. Our study demonstrated that ghrelin increased with 24-h fasting in rats with the lowest PVATV (less than 6%), after 3 days in rats with intermediate PVATV (6–9%) and 5 days in rats with the highest PVATV (greater than 9%). Ghrelin mRNA in the stomach was increased after 3 days in low-PVATV (5.8±0.9%) rats but not in high-PVATV (14±1.6%) rats. Therefore, both ghrelin secretion and mRNA were delayed in response to fasting in rats with increased visceral fat. In rats matched for PVATV, but with different body weights, the fasting induced similar levels of increased ghrelin while in rats with different PVATV ghrelin secretion was different in response to fasting, even when body weights were matched in two groups. These data suggested that the initial PVATV, not lean mass, was related to the pattern of plasma ghrelin in response to fasting in rats.

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Yingdi Yuan, Xinguo Cao, Jiaojiao Hu, Jingyun Li, Dan Shen, Lianghui You, Xianwei Cui, Xing Wang, Yahui Zhou, Yao Gao, Lijun Zhu, Pengfei Xu, Chenbo Ji, Xirong Guo and Juan Wen

Obesity is a major risk factor for metabolic diseases, while adipocyte differentiation is closely related to obesity occurrence. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are a unique class of transcripts in regulation of various biological processes. Using lncRNA microarray, we found lncRNA Abib92159.2 was highly expressed in differentiated HPA-v and located ~247 bp upstream of the TMEM18, which was associated with BMI and obesity. We aimed to explore the role of Abib92159.2 in adipogenesis and the underlying mechanisms. The effects of Abib92159.2 gain- and loss-of-function on HPA-v adipogenesis were determined with lentivirus and siRNA-mediated cell transduction, respectively. Lipid accumulation was evaluated by oil red O staining; the expression of Abib92159.2, TMEM18 and several adipogenesis makers in HPA-v were analyzed by qPCR/Western blot. We found that the expression of Abib92159.2 gradually increased during HPA-v differentiation, and its expression in omental adipose tissue was positively related with BMI among 48 human subjects. Overexpression of Abib92159.2 promoted adipocytes differentiation while knockdown of it led to an adipogenic defect. Moreover, the expression of Abib92159.2 and TMEM18 were positively correlated during adipogenic differentiation. Abib92159.2 overexpression boosted TMEM18 expression while Abib92159.2 knockdown restrained TMEM18 expression. Further rescue experiments showed that TMEM18 knockdown partially restrained adipogenic differentiation in Abib92159.2 overexpressed HPA-v and adipogenic defect caused by Abib92159.2 knockdown could be rescued by TMEM18 overexpression. Luciferase reporter assays revealed that Abib92159.2 had a transcriptional activation effect on TMEM18. We concluded that lncRNA Abib92159.2 promoted human adipocytes differentiation possibly by regulating TMEM18.