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Jie Yang, Jianyu Shang, Suli Zhang, Hao Li, and Huirong Liu

The compensatory alterations in the rennin–angiotensin–aldosterone system (RAAS) contribute to the salt–water balance and sufficient placental perfusion for the subsequent well-being of the mother and fetus during normal pregnancy and is characterized by an increase in almost all the components of RAAS. Preeclampsia, however, breaks homeostasis and leads to a disturbance of this delicate equilibrium in RAAS both for circulation and the uteroplacental unit. Despite being a major cause for maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, the pathogenesis of preeclampsia remains elusive, where RAAS has been long considered to be involved. Epidemiological studies have indicated that preeclampsia is a multifactorial disease with a strong familial predisposition regardless of variations in ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic features. The heritable allelic variations, especially the genetic polymorphisms in RAAS, could be the foundation for the genetics of preeclampsia and hence are related to the development of preeclampsia. Furthermore, at a posttranscriptional level, miRNA can interact with the targeted site within the 3′-UTR of the RAAS gene and thereby might participate in the regulation of RAAS and the pathology of preeclampsia. In this review, we discuss the recent achievements of genetic polymorphisms, as well as the interactions between maternal and fetal genotypes, and miRNA posttranscriptional regulation associated with RAAS in preeclampsia. The results are controversial but utterly inspiring and attractive in terms of potential prognostic significance. Although many studies suggest positive associations with genetic mutations and increased risk for preeclampsia, more meticulously designed large-scale investigations are needed to avoid the interference from different variations.

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Zhipeng Li, Zhaoshui Shangguan, Yijie Liu, Jihua Wang, Xuejun Li, Shuyu Yang, and Suhuan Liu

Pancreatic β-cell loss because of apoptosis is the major cause of type 1 diabetes (T1D) and late stage T2D. Puerarin possesses anti-diabetic properties; whether it acts directly on pancreatic β-cell is not clear. This study was designed to investigate the effects of puerarin on pancreatic β-cell survival and function. Diabetes was induced in male C57BL/6 mice by a single peritoneal injection of streptozotocin (STZ). Pancreatic β-cell survival and function were assessed in diabetic mice by measuring β-cell apoptosis, β-cell mass, pancreatic insulin content, and glucose tolerance, and in cultured islets and clonial MIN6 β-cells by measuring β-cell viability and apoptosis and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. We found that pre-treatment with puerarin decreased the incidence of STZ-induced diabetes. Puerarin increased pancreatic β-cell mass via β-cell apoptosis inhibition in diabetic mice, and increased serum insulin, whereas it decreased blood glucose levels and improved glucose tolerance. In cultured islets and MIN6 cells, puerarin protected β-cell from cobalt chloride (CoCl2)-induced apoptosis and restored the impaired capacity of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Puerarin protection of β-cell survival involved the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling pathway. In conclusion, puerarin protects pancreatic β-cell function and survival via direct effects on β-cells, and its protection of β-cell survival is mediated by the PI3K/Akt pathway. As a safe natural plant extraction, puerarin might serve as a preventive and/or therapeutic approach for diabetes.

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W M Liu, Y J Cao, Y J Yang, J Li, Z Hu, and E-K Duan

The expression of tetraspanin CD9 was found on blastocysts in mice and endometrium epithelial cells in human and bovine. However, it remains unknown how CD9 is involved in the precise dialogue between embryo and uterus during early pregnancy. This study was designed to investigate the functional roles of CD9 in the embryo implantation with monoclonal antibody against CD9 protein (anti-CD9 mAb) and antisense oligonucleotide against CD9 gene (AS-CD9). Our results showed that intrauterine injection of anti-CD9 mAb on day 4 of pregnancy significantly increased the number of embryos implanted (7.24±0.39 versus 4.04±0.38). In vitro, anti-CD9 mAb or AS-CD9 significantly enhanced embryo-outgrowth ability on the monolayer of uterus epithelial cells in a dose-dependent manner. However, the attachment of blastocysts to epithelial cells was unaffected. Furthermore, we found that anti-CD9 mAb or AS-CD9 stimulated matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP-2) production of blastocysts on Fibronectin. LY294002, a specific inhibitor of phosphoinositide 3-kinase, was able to counteract the effect of anti-CD9 mAb and AS-CD9 on outgrowth ability and production of MMP-2. Our results indicated that CD9 played a role of inhibiting embryo implantation. CD9 was able to impair embryo invasion and the production of MMP-2 through the phosphoinositide 3-kinase signaling pathway.

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Qiongyou Liu, Yang Zhang, Boyang Shi, Huijie Lu, Lihong Zhang, and Weimin Zhang

FOXO3 has been shown to be a critical transcription factor for folliculogenesis in mammals, while the information on its roles in reproduction of nonmammalian vertebrates remains scarce. In this study, two foxo3 homologs, namely foxo3a and foxo3b, were identified in a teleost, the orange-spotted grouper Epinephelus coioides. foxo3a was mainly expressed in the central nervous system, ovary, and gut whereas foxo3b was expressed ubiquitously in tissues examined. In contrast to the dominant expression of mammalian FOXO3 in germ cells but barely detectable in ovarian follicular cells, immunoreactive Foxo3a and Foxo3b were identified both in the ovarian germ cells and follicular cells. The immunointensities of both Foxo3a and Foxo3b in ovarian follicular cells during vitellogenesis were significantly increased stage-dependently, and co-localized with Cyp19a1a. In the nucleus of ovarian follicular cells, both Foxo3a and Foxo3b immunostaining could be detected at the vitellogenic stages. Transient transfection and EMSA showed that Foxo3a and Foxo3b upregulated cyp19a1a promoter activities in vitro through a conserved Foxo-binding site, with the latter being a more potent activator. However, ChIP analysis showed that only Foxo3b binds to cyp19a1a proximal promoter region containing the conserved Foxo-binding site in the vitellogenic ovary. Taken together, these results suggested that Foxo3a and Foxo3b are involved in the ovarian development possibly through regulating the ovarian germ cells as well as follicular cells, and Foxo3b but not Foxo3a may activate cyp19a1a in the ovarian follicular cells during vitellogenesis in the orange-spotted grouper.

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Xiuli Lu, Yang Li, Jianli Liu, Xiangyu Cao, Xude Wang, Delong Wang, Hisao Seo, and Bing Gao

DHCR24 encodes 3β-hydroxysteroid-Δ24 reductase, catalyzing the conversion of desmosterol to cholesterol. Our previous study demonstrated that DHCR24 exerts an anti-apoptotic function as a reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger, for which it needs its FAD-binding domain. The membrane topology of DHCR24 on endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the functional significance of its FAD-binding domain are not completely understood. Based on the structure predicted by bioinformatics, we studied the membrane topology of DHCR24 in murine neuroblastoma cells (N2A), using the fluorescent protease protection (FPP) technique. We showed that full-length DHCR24 is localized to the membrane of ER, whereas the predicted transmembrane (TM) domain-deleted DHCR24 mutation is localized to the cytoplasm. The change of DHCR24 localization suggests that the N-terminal TM domain is essential for the ER membrane targeting of DHCR24. The FPP assay demonstrated the membrane topology of DHCR24 with an N-terminal luminal/C-terminal cytoplasmic orientation. Measurement of intracellular ROS using H2DCFDA revealed that the ROS levels of cells infected by plasmids driving expression of full-length DHCR24 or the TM domain-deleted DHCR24 mutation after H2O2 exposure were lower than those of control cells, suggesting that the ER membrane targeting of DHCR24 is not required for its enzymatic ROS scavenging activity. Confocal fluorescence microscopy revealed that the DHCR24-overexpressed cells were protected from apoptosis in response to oxidative stress, which was accompanied by a decrease in DHCR24 content on the ER and activation of caspase-3, suggesting that the anti-apoptotic function of DHCR24 is associated with its cleavage by caspase.

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Qianqian Lu, Yuying Yang, Sheng Jia, Shaoqiang Zhao, Bin Gu, Peng Lu, Yang He, Ruixin Liu, Jiqiu Wang, Guang Ning, and Qinyun Ma

Appetite is tightly controlled by neural and hormonal signals in animals. In general, steroid receptor coactivator 1 (SRC1) enhances steroid hormone signalling in energy balance and serves as a common coactivator of several steroid receptors, such as oestrogen and glucocorticoid receptors. However, the key roles of SRC1 in energy balance remain largely unknown. We first confirmed that SRC1 is abundantly expressed in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC), which is a critical centre for regulating feeding and energy balance; it is further co-localised with agouti-related protein and proopiomelanocortin neurons in the arcuate nucleus. Interestingly, local SRC1 expression changes with the transition between sufficiency and deficiency of food supply. To identify its direct role in appetite regulation, we repressed SRC1 expression in the hypothalamic ARC using lentivirus shRNA and found that SRC1 deficiency significantly promoted food intake and body weight gain, particularly in mice fed with a high-fat diet. We also found the activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signalling pathway due to SRC1 deficiency. Thus, our results suggest that SRC1 in the ARC regulates appetite and body weight and that AMPK signalling is involved in this process. We believe that our study results have important implications for recognising the overlapping and integrating effects of several steroid hormones/receptors on accurate appetite regulation in future studies.

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Sunan Li, Juxiong Liu, Qingkang Lv, Chuan Zhang, Shiyao Xu, Dongxue Yang, Bingxu Huang, Yalong Zeng, Yingjie Gao, and Wei Wang


The ghrelin peptides were found to circulate in two major forms: acylated ghrelin (AG) and unacylated ghrelin (UAG). Previous studies showed that AG regulates β-casein (CSN2) expression in mammary epithelial cells. However, little is known about the mechanisms by which AG regulates CSN2 gene and protein expression. Evidence suggests that UAG has biological activity through GHSR1a-independent mechanisms. Here, we investigated the possible GHSR1a-mediated effect of UAG on the expression of CSN2 in primary bovine mammary epithelial cells (pbMECs) isolated from lactating cow. We found that both AG and UAG increase the expression of CSN2 in a dose-dependent manner in pbMECs in comparison with the control group. Increased expression of CSN2 was blocked by [D-Lys3]-GHRP-6 (an antagonist of the GHSR1a) and NF449 (a Gs-α subunit inhibitor) in pbMECs. In addition, both AG and UAG activated AKT/protein kinase B (AKT) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) pathways, whereas [D-Lys3]-GHRP-6 and NF449 inhibited the phosphorylation of AKT and ERK1/2 in pbMECs respectively. Blockade of ERK1/2 and AKT signaling pathways prevented the expression of CSN2 induced by AG or UAG. Finally, we found that both AG and UAG cause cell proliferation through identical signaling pathways. Taken together, these results demonstrate that both AG and UAG act on ERK1/2 and AKT signaling pathways to facilitate the expression of CSN2 in a GHSR1a-dependent manner.

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Ji Chen, Chao Li, Wenjie Liu, Bin Yan, Xiaoling Hu, and Fengrui Yang

Neuropathic pain represents one of the most common complications associated with diabetes mellitus (DM) that impacts quality of life. Accumulating studies have highlighted the involvement of miRNAs in DM. Thus, the current study aimed to investigate the roles of miR-155 in diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). In vitro DPN models were established using rat Schwann cells (SCs) by treatment with 5.5 mM glucose. Gain- or loss-of-function studies were conducted to determine the effect of miR-155 on Nrf2, cellular function, reactive oxygen species and inflammation. Rat DNP models were established by streptozotocin injection and damage of sciatic nerve. Next, miR-155 antagomir or agomir was employed to investigate the effects associated with miR-155 on motor and sciatic nerve conduction velocity (MNCV, SNCV), angiogenesis and inflammatory response in vivo. Nrf2 was identified to be a target of miR-155 by dual-luciferase reporter gene assay. Silencing of miR-155 or restoration of Nrf2 promoted cell proliferation, inhibited apoptosis and alleviated inflammation in vitro. miR-155 antagomir-induced inhibition increased MNCV and SNCV, strengthened angiogenesis and alleviated inflammation in DPN rats. Additionally, the effects exerted by miR-155 were reversed when Nrf2 was restored both in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, the key findings of our study provide evidence indicating that miR-155 targeted and suppressed Nrf2 in DPN. miR-155 silencing was found to alleviate sciatic nerve injury in DPN, highlighting its potential as a therapeutic target for DPN.

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Qinyun Ma, Jianxia Fan, Jiqiu Wang, Shuai Yang, Qing Cong, Rui Wang, Qianqian Lv, Ruixin Liu, and Guang Ning

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) presents with moderate inflammation, insulin resistance and impaired glucose uptake, which may result from increased maternal fat mass and increased circulation of placental hormones and adipokines. In this study, we set out to test whether the surge in chorionic gonadotrophin (CG) secretion is a cause of inflammation and impaired insulin sensitivity in GDM. We first found that LH/chorionic gonadotrophin receptors (CG/LHR) were expressed at low levels in insulin-sensitive murine 3T3-L1 adipocytes and murine C2C12 myocytes. CG treatment not only directly reduced insulin-responsive gene expression, including that of glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4), but also impaired insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in 3T3-L1 cells. Moreover, CG treatment increased the expression of the proinflammatory cytokine monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP1) and upregulated nuclear factor κ-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) activity in 3T3-L1 cells. Clinically, pregnant women who had higher CG levels and elevated MCP1 developed GDM. Above all, apart from prepregnancy BMI and MCP1 level, CG level was associated with abnormal glucose tolerance. In summary, our findings confirmed that higher CG levels in pregnancy possibly played a role in GDM development partly by impairing the functions of insulin, such those involved in as glucose uptake, while promoting inflammation in adipocyte.

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Qianqian Lu, Yuying Yang, Sheng Jia, Shaoqian Zhao, Bin Gu, Peng Lu, Yang He, Ruixin Liu, Jiqiu Wang, Guang Ning, and Qinyun Ma