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Ying Ying, Huazhang Zhu, Zhen Liang, Xiaosong Ma and Shiwei Li

Activation of apoptosis in cardiomyocytes by saturated palmitic acids contributes to cardiac dysfunction in diabetic cardiomyopathy. Beta-catenin (b-catenin) is a transcriptional regulator of several genes involved in survival/anti-apoptosis. However, its role in palmitate-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis remains unclear. Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1) has been shown to exhibit potential cardioprotective properties. This study was designed to evaluate the role of b-catenin signalling in palmitate-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis and the molecular mechanism underlying the protective effects of GLP1 on palmitate-stressed cardiomyocytes. Exposure of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes to palmitate increased the fatty acid transporter CD36-mediated intracellular lipid accumulation and cardiomyocyte apoptosis, decreased accumulation and nuclear translocation of active b-catenin, and reduced expression of b-catenin target protein survivin and BCL2. These detrimental effects of palmitate were significantly attenuated by GLP1 co-treatment. However, the anti-apoptotic effects of GLP1 were markedly abolished when b-catenin was silenced with a specific short hairpin RNA. Furthermore, analysis of the upstream molecules and mechanisms responsible for GLP1-associated cardiac protection revealed that GLP1 restored the decreased phosphorylation of protein kinase B (Akt) and glycogen synthase kinase-3b (GSK3b) in palmitate-stimulated cardiomyocytes. In contrast, inhibition of Akt with an Akt-specific inhibitor MK2206 or blockade of GLP1 receptor (GLP1R) with a competitive antagonist exendin-(9–39) significantly abrogated the GLP1-mediated activation of GSK3b/b-catenin signalling, leading to increased apoptosis in palmitate-stressed cardiomyocytes. Collectively, our results demonstrated for the first time that the attenuated b-catenin signalling may contribute to palmitate-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis, while GLP1 can protect cardiomyocytes from palmitate-induced apoptosis through activation of GLP1R/Akt/GSK3b-mediated b-catenin signalling.

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Ying Li, Michael Wallis and Ya-ping Zhang

Divergence of proteins in signaling pathways requires ligand and receptor coevolution to maintain or improve binding affinity and/or specificity. In this paper we show a clear case of coevolution between the prolactin (PRL) gene and its receptor (prolactin receptor, PRLR) in mammals. First we observed episodic evolution of the extracellular and intracellular domains of the PRLR, which is closely consistent with that seen in PRL. Correlated evolution was demonstrated both between PRL and its receptor and between the two domains of the PRLR using Pearson’s correlation coefficient. On comparing the ratio of the nonsynonymous substitution rate to synonymous substitution rate (ω =d N/d S) for each branch of the star phylogeny of mammalian PRLRs, separately for the extracellular domain (ECD) and the transmembrane domain/intracellular domain (TMD/ICD), we observed a lower ω ratio for ECD than TMD/ICD along those branches leading to pig, dog and rabbit but a higher ratio for ECD than TMD/ICD on the branches leading to primates, rodents and ruminants, on which bursts of rapid evolution were observed. These observations can be best explained by coevolution between PRL and its receptor and between the two domains of the PRLR.

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Ying Zhang, Mingtong Xu, Shaoling Zhang, Li Yan, Chuan Yang, Wensheng Lu, Yan Li and Hua Cheng

Free fatty acids (FFAs) exert divergent effects on β-cells. Acute exposure to FFAs stimulates insulin secretion, whereas chronic exposure impairs β-cell function and induces apoptosis. The G protein-coupled receptor 40 (GPR40) is preferentially expressed in β-cells and is activated by a wide range of FFAs. In this study, we used small interfering RNA technology and apoptosis assay in mouse β-cell NIT-1 to address the role of GPR40 in β-cell lipoapoptosis and function. Results showed that palmitate induced β-cell apoptosis, which was not mediated through GPR40, whereas oleate protected NIT-1 cells from palmitate-induced lipoapoptosis, which was mediated at least in part through GPR40. Moreover, by detecting the activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and MAP kinase (MAPK) pathways, we found that oleate promoted the activation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase–MAPK pathway mainly via GPR40, increased the expression of early growth response gene-1, leading to the anti-lipoapoptotic effect on NIT-1 cells. It was suggested that GPR40 might be implicated in the control of β-cell mass plasticity and GPR40 probably provide a link between obesity and type 2 diabetes.

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Ying Li, Fuzhe Ma, Huimin Li, Yuguo Song, Huan Zhang, Ziping Jiang and Hao Wu

Impaired wound healing is a common complication among patients with diabetes mellitus (DM), resulting in high rates of disability and mortality. Recent findings highlighted the critical role of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) – a master of cellular antioxidants scavenging excessive DM-induced free radicals – in accelerating diabetic wound healing. Dimethyl fumarate (DMF) is a potent NRF2 activator used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. However, the effect of DMF on wound healing has not been determined. The present study investigated the effect of DMF on the diabetic and the non-diabetic wound healing in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice and non-diabetic control mice. DMF activated NRF2 signaling under both conditions. Interestingly, DMF attenuated oxidative damage and inflammation, and accelerated wound closure in the diabetic mice. However, this effect was not observed in non-diabetic mice. Keratinocytes were treated with normal glucose (NG), high glucose (HG), or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), in the presence or absence of DMF to assess the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) – inducible in DM – in mediating DMF-induced protection. Both HG and H2O2 elevated ROS, oxidative damage, and inflammation, the effects of which were similarly blunted by DMF. However, in spite of the activation of NRF2, DMF lost this capability under the NG condition. The findings of this study demonstrate that ROS activate the protective effect of DMF on the diabetic wound healing.

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Ying Li, Chun Ye, Peng Shi, Xiao-Ju Zou, Rui Xiao, Yuan-Ying Gong and Ya-Ping Zhang

The growth hormone (GH) gene family represents an erratic and complex evolutionary pattern, involving many evolutionary events, such as multiple gene duplications, positive selection, the birth-and-death process and gene conversions. In the present study, we cloned and sequenced GH-like genes from three species of New World monkeys (NWM). Phylogenetic analysis strongly suggest monophyly for NWM GH-like genes with respect to those of Old World monkeys (OWM) and hominoids, indicating that independent gene duplications have occurred in NWM GH-like genes. There are three main clusters of genes in putatively functional NWM GH-like genes, according to our gene tree. Comparison of the ratios of nonsynonymous and synonymous substitutions revealed that these three clusters of genes evolved under different kinds of selective pressures. Detailed analysis of the evolution of pseudogenes showed that the evolutionary pattern of this gene family in platyrrhines is in agreement with the so-called birth-and-death process.

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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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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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Chunyu Wang, Li Tian, Kun Zhang, Yaxi Chen, Xiang Chen, Ying Xie, Qian Zhao and Xijie Yu

The purpose of the study was to determine the roles of interleukin-6 (IL6) in fat and bone communication. Male wild-type (WT) mice and IL6 knockout (IL6−/−) mice were fed with either regular diet (RD) or high-fat diet (HFD) for 12 weeks. Bone mass and bone microstructure were evaluated by micro-computed tomography. Gene expression related to lipid and bone metabolisms was assayed with real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Bone marrow cells from both genotypes were induced to differentiate into osteoblasts or osteoclasts, and treated with palmitic acid (PA). HFD increased the body weight and fat pad weight, and impaired lipid metabolism in both WT and IL6−/− mice. The dysregulation of lipid metabolism was more serious in IL6−/− mice. Trabecular bone volume fraction, trabecular bone number and trabecular bone thickness were significantly downregulated in WT mice after HFD than those in the RD (P < 0.05). However, these bone microstructural parameters were increased by 53%, 34% and 40%, respectively, in IL6−/− mice than those in WT mice on the HFD (P < 0.05). IL6−/− osteoblasts displayed higher alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and higher mRNA levels of Runx2 and Colla1 than those in WT osteoblasts both in the control and PA treatment group (P < 0.05). IL6−/− mice showed significantly lower mRNA levels of PPARγ and leptin and higher mRNA levels of adiponectin in comparison with WT mice on HFD. In conclusion, these findings suggested that IL6 gene deficiency antagonized HFD-induced bone loss. IL6 might bridge lipid and bone metabolisms and could be a new potential therapeutic target for lipid metabolism disturbance-related bone loss.

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Huan Zhang, Xiuxia Liu, Shanshan Zhou, Ye Jia, Ying Li, Yuguo Song, Junnan Wang and Hao Wu

c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) contributes to the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy (DN). The JNK inhibitor SP600125 was reported to ameliorate DN. However, the mechanism remained unclear. We previously reported that SP600125 activated nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2), a governor of the cellular antioxidant defense system, in the aortas of the diabetic mice. Given the critical role of NRF2 in preventing DN, the present study aimed to test whether or not NRF2 is required for SP600125’s protection against DN. To test the role of NRF2 in SP600125’s effect, streptozotocin-induced C57BL/6 wild-type (WT) and Nrf2-knockout (KO) diabetic mice were treated in the presence or absence of SP600125, for 24 weeks. To explore the mechanism by which SP600125 activates NRF2, mouse mesangial cells (MMCs) were treated with high glucose (HG), in the presence or absence of either SP600125 or JNK siRNA. SP600125 significantly attenuated the diabetes-induced renal oxidative stress, inflammation, fibrosis, pathological change and dysfunction in the WT, but not the Nrf2 KO mice. SP600125 inactivated JNK, inhibited kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 expression, preserved NRF2 protein and facilitated its nuclear translocation in the kidneys of the WT mice, the effects of which were similarly produced by either SP600125 or JNK siRNA in HG-treated MMCs. Further, both SP600125 and JNK siRNA alleviated HG-induced mesangial oxidative stress and expression of inflammatory and fibrotic genes. The present study demonstrates that NRF2 is required for SP600125’s protection against DN. SP600125 activates NRF2 possibly via inhibition of JNK-induced Keap1 expression.