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Juan Zhang, Yunting Zhou, Cheng Chen, Feiyuan Yu, Yun Wang, Jiang Gu, Lian Ma, and Guyu Ho

Hypothalamic glucose-sensing neurons regulate the expression of genes encoding feeding-related neuropetides POMC, AgRP, and NPY – the key components governing metabolic homeostasis. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is postulated to be the molecular mediator relaying glucose signals to regulate the expression of these neuropeptides. Whether other signaling mediator(s) plays a role is not clear. In this study, we investigated the role of ERK1/2 using primary hypothalamic neurons as the model system. The primary neurons were differentiated from hypothalamic progenitor cells. The differentiated neurons possessed the characteristic neuronal cell morphology and expressed neuronal post-mitotic markers as well as leptin-regulated orexigenic POMC and anorexigenic AgRP/NPY genes. Treatment of cells with glucose dose-dependently increased POMC and decreased AgRP/NPY expression with a concurrent suppression of AMPK phosphorylation. In addition, glucose treatment dose-dependently increased the ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Blockade of ERK1/2 activity with its specific inhibitor PD98059 partially (approximately 50%) abolished glucose-induced POMC expression, but had little effect on AgRP/NPY expression. Conversely, blockade of AMPK activity with its specific inhibitor produced a partial (approximately 50%) reversion of low-glucose-suppressed POMC expression, but almost completely blunted the low-glucose-induced AgRP/NPY expression. The results indicate that ERK1/2 mediated POMC but not AgRP/NPY expression. Confirming the in vitro findings, i.c.v. administration of PD98059 in rats similarly attenuated glucose-induced POMC expression in the hypothalamus, but again had little effect on AgRP/NPY expression. The results are indicative of a novel role of ERK1/2 in glucose-regulated POMC expression and offer new mechanistic insights into hypothalamic glucose sensing.

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Yun-Qing Zhu, Yun Hu, Ke He, Na Li, Peng Jiang, Yu-Qin Pan, Hong Zhou, and Xiao-Ming Mao

The follicles are the minimal functional unit of the thyroid; the morphology and the function of each follicle can vary significantly. However, the reasons for the apparent follicular heterogeneity are poorly understood. Some tissue-resident regulatory T cells (Tregs) have a special phenotype that expresses unique molecules related to local tissue and regulates the tissue functions. The aim of this study was to identify the phenotype of thyroid Tregs and the roles of thyroid Tregs in thyroid physiological regulation. Thyroid tissue and peripheral blood samples were obtained from patients with benign thyroid nodules. Microarray-based gene expression, flow cytometry, immunofluorescence microscopy, and functional analysis of thyroid Tregs were performed. Here, we demonstrated that human thyroid Tregs expressed high level of thyroglobulin (Tg), both gene and protein. The immunofluorescence microscopy of thyroid section showed that the FOXP3+Tg+ cells concentrated in some of the thyroid follicles, at the side of the thyroid follicle. The peripheral blood Tregs expressed minimal levels of Tg, and low levels of Tg could effectively induce peripheral blood Tregs to express Tg, which was independent of thyrotropin simulation. Furthermore, the Tg secreted freely from thyroid Tregs that negatively regulated some thyroid-related genes expression. Our results revealed that the thyroid Tregs was a distinct population of Tregs, which expressed high level of Tg. The thyroid Tregs regulate thyroid function by Tg that is paracrine from the cells.

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Ying Xue, Ran Li, Ping Fang, Zheng-qin Ye, Yong Zhao, Yun Zhou, Ke-qin Zhang, and Ling Li

Gouty arthritis is a common inflammatory disease characterized by monosodium urate (MSU) crystal induced nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptor (NLR) family pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome activation with up-regulated caspase-1 protease and IL-1β in macrophages. Cucurbitacin B (CuB) is a tetracyclic triterpene that possesses a potential anti-inflammatory activity. However, the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of CuB on gout have not been well characterized. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to determine whether CuB exhibits anti-inflammatory effects on gout and to analyze the underlying molecular mechanism. We examined the effects of CuB on various stimuli-activated bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) and the mice model with MSU-induced acute gouty arthritis. Our results demonstrated that CuB effectively suppressed multiple stimuli-activated IL-1β secretion by interrupting NLRP3 inflammasome complex formation, inhibiting NLRP3 inflammasome activation and suppressing key enzymes of glycolysis in macrophages. Consistent with this, CuB pretreatment also ameliorated MSU-induced arthritis in vivo models of gout arthritis, manifested by reduced foot swelling and inflammatory cell infiltration. Taken together, our data provide the evidence that CuB is a NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor with therapeutic potential for treating NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated diseases, especially gouty arthritis.

Free access

David E C Cole, Francisco H J Yun, Betty Y L Wong, Andrew Y Shuen, Ronald A Booth, Alfredo Scillitani, Svetlana Pidasheva, Xiang Zhou, Lucie Canaff, and Geoffrey N Hendy

The calcium-sensing receptor (CASR), a plasma membrane G-protein-coupled receptor, is expressed in parathyroid gland and kidney, and controls systemic calcium homeostasis. Inactivating CASR mutations are associated with familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia (FHH) and neonatal severe hyperparathyroidism, and activating mutations cause autosomal dominant hypocalcemia (ADH). CASR mutation identification plays an important role in the clinical management of mineral metabolism disorders. We describe here a high-throughput method using screening with denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) to initially interrogate 12 amplicons covering translated exons and exon/intron boundaries, followed by sequencing of any amplicon with a modified melting curve relative to wild type, and direct sequencing of a 13th amplicon encoding the COOH-terminal tail to distinguish causative mutations from three common missense single nucleotide polymorphisms. A blinded analysis of 32 positive controls representing mutations throughout the CASR sequence, as well as 22 negative controls, yielded a concordance rate of 100%. We report eight novel and five recurrent FHH mutations, along with six novel and two recurrent ADH mutations. Thus, DHPLC provides a rapid and effective means to screen for CASR mutations.