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Xiao-Hua Wang, Hao-Meng Wang, Bao-Lei Zhao, Peng Yu and Zhen-Chuan Fan

Melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) is a key factor in regulating energy homeostasis, and null mutations occurring in the gene encoding MC4R cause severe early-onset morbid obesity in humans. Many obesity-causing mutations affecting MC4R clinically identified so far lead to failure of mutant receptors to shuttle to the plasma membrane. In this study, we show that a novel human MC4R antagonist, Ipsen 17, acted as an pharmacological chaperone of human MCR4. As tested with 12 obesity-causing human MC4R variants including S58C, E61K, N62S, I69T, P78L, C84R, G98R, T162I, R165W, W174C, C271Y, and P299H, Ipsen 17 was found to be the most universal pharmacological chaperone of MC4R reported so far because it can completely rescue nearly all mutant receptors (except P299H) with the highest potency (an EC50 value of approximately 10−8 M) and efficiency when compared with results for other tested pharmacological chaperones of MC4R including ML00253764, PBA, MTHP, PPPone, MPCI, DCPMP, and NBP described in the literature. Once restored to the plasma membrane, defective human MC4R variants responded to α-MSH stimulation with an EC50 value of approximately 10−8 M and displayed dramatically enhanced signaling ability (except for G98R) in a mutant-specific efficacy and potency profile. Taken together, these results indicate that Ipsen 17 represents a candidate for the development of a targeted treatment of severe early-onset morbid obesity caused by a large subset of inherited mutations in the human MC4R gene.

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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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Xiao-Qiu Wang, Jing Yu, Xue-Zhen Luo, Ying-Li Shi, Yun Wang, Ling Wang and Da-Jin Li

RANTES (C–C chemokine, regulated on activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted) is involved in progression of endometriosis, but the precise mechanism is understood inadequately. This study is to elucidate the roles of RANTES in macrophage recruitment and tolerance in the endometriotic milieu. The expression of RANTES was analyzed by immunohistochemistry. The cell co-cultures were applied to simulate the endometriotic milieu to investigate the regulation of RANTES secretion and its receptor CCR1 expression. Transwell migration assay was used for chemotaxis of U937 cells (macrophage line) to endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) and/or human pelvic mesothelial cells. The expression of CCR1 was analyzed by RT-PCR and qPCR in transcription and by western blot in translation respectively. Concentrations of RANTES, IL10, and IL12p70 were determined by ELISA. The phenotype of U937 cells and apoptosis of ESCs were analyzed by flow cytometry. We have found that the expression of RANTES is significantly higher in the endometriotic tissue and eutopic endometrium than that of the normal endometrium without endometriosis. The combination of 17β-estradiol and dioxin 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin increases significantly RANTES secretion in the endometriosis-associated cell co-culture which can recruit more macrophages, upregulate CCR1 expression, and induce tolerant phenotype, which inhibits the apoptosis of ESC in the milieu. In conclusion, the higher levels of RANTES in the ectopic milieu facilitate the onset and progression of endometriosis by macrophage recruitment and tolerance that in turn inhibits apoptosis and enhances growth of ESC.

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Qi Zhang, Qin Zhu, Ruyuan Deng, Feiye Zhou, Linlin Zhang, Shushu Wang, Kecheng Zhu, Xiao Wang, Libin Zhou and Qing Su

Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) plays an important role in the regulation of lipid and glucose metabolism. MS-275, as a class I-specific histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, has also been reported to affect energy metabolism. In this current study, we investigated the effects of MS-275 on hepatic FGF21 expression in vitro and in vivo and explored whether cAMP-responsive element-binding protein H (CREBH) was involved in the action of MS-275. Our results showed that MS-275 stimulated hepatic FGF21 mRNA and protein expressions in a dose- and time-dependent manner, as well as FGF21 secretion in primary mouse hepatocytes. Serum concentration and hepatic expression of FGF21 were elevated after injection of MS-275, along with increased expressions of genes involved in fatty acid oxidation and ketogenic production (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gammacoactivator1α, PGC-1α; carnitine palmitoyl-transferase 1a, CPT1a; 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase 2, Hmgcs2) as well as improved blood lipid profile. As a proved transcription factor of FGF21, the expression of CREBH was initiated by MS-275, with increased histone H3 lysine 18 acetylation (H3K18ac) signals and hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF-4α) recruitment in CREBH promoter. Adenovirus-mediated knockdown of CREBH abolished MS-275-induced hepatic FGF21 and lipid metabolism-related gene expressions. These results suggest that MS-275 induces hepatic FGF21 by H3K18ac-mediated CREBH expression.

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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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Ming-Qing Li, Xiao-Fan Hou, Shi-Jian Lv, Yu-Han Meng, Xiao-Qiu Wang, Chuan-Ling Tang and Da-Jin Li

Tetraspanin CD82 is a wide-spectrum tumor metastasis suppressor that inhibits motility and invasiveness of cancer cells. Endometriosis is a benign gynecological disorder, but appears malignant behaviors including invasion, ectopic implantation and recurrence. This study is to elucidate the role of CD82 expression regulation in the pathogenesis of endometriosis. The short interfering RNA silence was established to analyze the roles of CD82, chemokine CCL2, and its receptor CCR2 in the invasiveness of endometrial stromal cells (ESCs). We have found that the mRNA and protein levels of CD82 in the primary normal ESCs from endometrium without endometriosis are significantly higher than that of the primary ESCs from eutopic endometrium and ectopic tissue. CD82 inhibits the invasiveness of ESCs by downregulating CCL2 secretion and CCR2 expression via mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and integrinβ1 signal pathway, and in turn upregulating the expression of TIMP1 and TIMP2 in an autocrine manner. The combination of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) with 17β-estradiol can promote the invasion of ESCs via suppressing CD82 expression and stimulating CCL2 secretion and CCR2 expression, and the enhanced interaction of CCL2–CCR2 recruits more macrophages into the ectopic milieu in a paracrine manner, which further downregulates CD82 expression in the ectopic ESCs. Our study has demonstrated for the first time that the abnormal lower CD82 expression in ESCs induced by TCDD and estrogen may be an important molecular basis of endometriosis pathogenesis through enhancing the CCL2 secretion and CCR2 expression and the invasion of ESCs via MAPK and integrinβ1 signal pathway.

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Yue Wang, Xiu Long Niu, Xiao Qin Guo, Jing Yang, Ling Li, Ye Qu, Cun Xiu Hu, Li Qun Mao and Dan Wang

About 40–60% of ovarian cancer (OVCA) cases express ERα, but only a small proportion of patients respond clinically to anti-estrogen treatment with estrogen receptor (ER) antagonist tamoxifen (TAM). The mechanism of TAM resistance in the course of OVCA progression remains unclear. However, IL6 plays a critical role in the development and progression of OVCA. Our recent results indicated that IL6 secreted by OVCA cells may promote the resistance of these cells to TAM via ER isoforms and steroid hormone receptor coactivator-1. Here we demonstrate that both exogenous (a relatively short period of treatment with recombinant IL6) and endogenous IL6 (generated as a result of transfection with a plasmid encoding sense IL6) increases expression of pERα-Ser118 and pERα-Ser167 in non-IL6-expressing A2780 cells, while deleting endogenous IL6 expression in IL6-overexpressing CAOV-3 cells (by transfection with a plasmid encoding antisense IL6) reduces expression of pERα-Ser118 and pERα-Ser167, indicating that IL6-induced TAM resistance may also be associated with increased expression of pERα-Ser118 and pERα-Ser167 in OVCA cells. Results of further investigation indicate that IL6 phosphorylates ERα at Ser118 and Ser167 by triggering activation of MEK/ERK and phosphotidylinositol 3 kinase/Akt signaling, respectively, to activate the ER pathway and thereby induce OVCA cells resistance to TAM. These results indicate that IL6 secreted by OVCA cells may also contribute to the refractoriness of these cells to TAM via the crosstalk between ER and IL6-mediated intracellular signal transduction cascades. Overexpression of IL6 not only plays an important role in OVCA progression but also promotes TAM resistance. Our results indicate that TAM-IL6-targeted adjunctive therapy may lead to a more effective intervention than TAM alone.

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Yajie Guo, Junjie Yu, Chunxia Wang, Kai Li, Bin Liu, Ying Du, Fei Xiao, Shanghai Chen and Feifan Guo

MicroRNAs, a class of small noncoding RNAs, are implicated in controlling a variety of biological processes. We have shown that leucine deprivation suppresses lipogenesis by inhibiting fatty acid synthase (FAS) expression in the liver previously; the aim of our current study is to investigate which kind of microRNA is involved in the regulation of FAS expression in response to leucine deprivation. Here, we indicated that microRNA-212-5p specifically binds to mouse FAS 3′UTR and inhibits its activity. Leucine deficiency significantly increased the mRNA levels of miR-212-5p in the livers of mice. Further studies proved that miR-212-5p also directly binds to the 3′UTR of stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 (SCD1) to inhibit its activity. Overexpression of miR-212-5p decreases the protein levels of FAS and SCD1 in vitro and in vivo, and silencing of miR-212-5p has the opposite effects in mouse primary hepatocytes. Moreover, overexpression of miR-212-5p significantly decreases triglyceride (TG) accumulation in primary hepatocytes and in the livers of mice injected with adenovirus-mediated overexpressing of miR-212-5p (Ad-miR-212). Interestingly, inhibition of miR-212-5p reverses the suppressive effects of leucine deficiency on FAS and SCD1 expression, as well as TG accumulation in mouse primary hepatocytes. Finally, we demonstrate that leucine deficiency induces the expression of miR-212-5p in a GCN2/ATF4-dependent manner. Taken together, our results demonstrate a novel function of hepatic miR-212-5p in the regulation of lipid metabolism which represents a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of non-alcohol fatty liver diseases (NAFLD).

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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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He Jiang, Xiao-Ping Ye, Zhong-Yin Yang, Ming Zhan, Hai-Ning Wang, Huang-Min Cao, Hui-Jun Xie, Chun-Ming Pan, Huai-Dong Song and Shuang-Xia Zhao

There is a high incidence of metabolic syndrome among patients with primary aldosteronism (PA), which has recently been associated with an unfavorable cardiometabolic profile. However, the underlying mechanisms have not been clarified in detail. Characterizing aldosterone (Ald) target genes in adipocytes will help us to elucidate the deleterious effects associated with excess Ald. Apelin, a novel adipokine, exerts beneficial effects on obesity-associated disorders and cardiovascular homeostasis. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of high Ald levels on apelin expression and secretion and the underlying mechanisms involved in adipocytes. In vivo, a single-dose Ald injection acutely decreased apelin serum levels and adipose tissue apelin production, which demonstrates a clear inverse relationship between the levels of plasma Ald and plasma apelin. Experiments using 3T3-L1 adipocytes showed that Ald decreased apelin expression and secretion in a time- and dose-dependent manner. This effect was reversed by glucocorticoid receptor (GR) antagonists or GR (NR3C1) knockdown; furthermore, putative HREs were identified in the apelin promoter. Subsequently, we verified that both glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids regulated apelin expression through GR activation, although no synergistic effect was observed. Additionally, detailed potential mechanisms involved a p38 MAPK signaling pathway. In conclusion, our findings strengthen the fact that there is a direct interaction between Ald and apelin in adipocytes, which has important implications for hyperaldosteronism or PA-associated cardiometabolic syndrome and hoists apelin on the list of potent therapeutic targets for PA.