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Journal: Sheng li xue bao : [Acta physiologica Sinica]


The transcription factor Nrf2, nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2, activates the transcription of over 500 genes in the human genome, most of which have cytoprotective functions. Nrf2 produces cytoprotection by detoxification mechanisms leading to increased detoxification and excretion of both organic xenobiotics and toxic metals; its action via over two dozen genes increases highly coordinated antioxidant activities; it produces major anti-inflammatory changes; it stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and otherwise improves mitochondrial function; and it stimulates autophagy, removing toxic protein aggregates and dysfunctional organelles. Health-promoting nutrients and other factors act, at least in part by raising Nrf2 including: many phenolic antioxidants; gamma- and delta-tocopherols and tocotrienols; long chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA; many carotenoids of which lycopene may be the most active; isothiocyanates from cruciferous vegetables; sulfur compounds from allium vegetables; terpenoids. Other health promoting, Nrf2 raising factors include low level oxidative stress (hormesis), exercise and caloric restriction. Raising Nrf2 has been found to prevent and/or treat a large number of chronic inflammatory diseases in animal models and/or humans including various cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, lung diseases, diseases of toxic liver damage, cancer (prevention), diabetes/metabolic syndrome/obesity, sepsis, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy. Lesser evidence suggests that raising Nrf2 may lower 16 other diseases. Many of these diseases are probable NO/ONOO(-) cycle diseases and Nrf2 lowers effects of NO/ONOO(-) cycle elements. The most healthful diets known, traditional Mediterranean and Okinawan, are rich in Nrf2 raising nutrients as apparently was the Paleolithic diet that our ancestors ate. Modern diets are deficient in such nutrients. Nrf2 is argued to be both lifespan and healthspan extending. Possible downsides to too much Nrf2 are also discussed. Nrf2 is not a magic bullet but is likely to be of great importance in health promotion, particularly in those regularly exposed to toxic chemicals.

Concepts: Inflammation, DNA, Genetics, Nutrition, Fatty acid, Antioxidant, Omega-3 fatty acid, Inflammatory bowel disease


Under normal condition, there are a few lipid droplets in skeletal muscle. But in skeletal muscle acute injury, muscular dystrophy, muscle atrophy, obesity, diabetes and other pathological conditions, the fat deposition in skeletal muscle increases, which implicate that the fat deposition may play an important role in the pathogenesis of these diseases. However, the mechanisms of development and regulation of fat deposition in skeletal muscle are not clear. Clarifying the key signaling pathways and regulatory factors that affect fat deposition in skeletal muscle, and exploring new ways to improve the fat deposition in skeletal muscle will not only help to deepen our understanding of the pathogenesis of these diseases, but also provide new ideas for the treatment of these diseases. This paper reviews the research progresses and main mechanisms of fat deposition in skeletal muscle.

Concepts: Metabolism, Pathology, Muscle, Fat, Adipose tissue, Muscle atrophy, Muscular system, Atrophy


High altitude hypoxia is an important factor to affect fetal development during pregnancy. In the special environment, maternal physiological functions are regulated to maintain the maternal and fetal homeostasis, so that limited oxygen is to meet the needs of fetal growth and development. In this review, the literatures about the effects of hypoxic environment on fetal development during pregnancy in recent years were summarized, in which the fetal growth characteristics, maternal physiological regulation, genetic and placental influencing factors in high altitude areas were involved. This may be helpful for the reproductive healthcare of women in high altitude region, and also for the treatment and prevention of fetal growth retardation in the hypoxic environment.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Fertility, Embryology, Hypoxia, Implantation, Gestational age, Altitude sickness


Despite continued improvement in risk factor recognition and aggressive medical management, heart disease remains the number one killer in the world. Medications for primary or secondary prevention of heart disease can cause unpleasant side effects leading to non-compliance. Novel therapies are needed to serve as a complement to or alternative for current medical management. Acupuncture and more specifically electroacupuncture may serve as a safe and viable option in the cardiology clinic. This review article focuses on both mechanistic and clinical studies evaluating acupuncture’s effectiveness with symptomatic heart disease. Although continued research is needed, currently evidence warrants consideration of acupuncture’s use with myocardial ischemia, hypertension, arrhythmias, heart failure as well as autonomic dysfunction.

Concepts: Medicine, Myocardial infarction, Cardiology, Heart failure, Avicenna, Heart disease, Alternative medicine, Ischaemic heart disease


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that control diverse cellular and developmental events through repression of large sets of target mRNAs. miRNAs expressions were mainly regulated at two levels: transcriptional and post-transcriptional. Transcriptional regulation of miRNA-encoding genes produce specific expression patterns of individual miRNA. However, the mechanism of post-transcriptional regulation of miRNAs remains largely unknown. The present study was aimed to clarify whether HuR, an evolutionary conserved AU-rich binding protein, could regulate miRNAs expressions. By means of a computational screen for AUUUA motifs within pri-miRNAs, we found that the downstream of hsa-let-7c but not hsa-miR-21 was enriched of AUUUA motifs. Then we transfected HuR and mutant HuR lacking RNA recognition motif 3 (RRM3) respectively into HEK293T cells. And HuR protein and miRNAs expressions were detected by Western blot and real-time PCR, respectively. The results showed that the overexpression of HuR promoted mature hsa-let-7c expression but not hsa-miR-21 expression. Furthermore, overexpression of HuR deletion mutant lacking RRM3 did not promote hsa-let-7c expression. These results suggest that RRM3 is crucial for HuR mediating mature hsa-let-7c expression. Collectively, these findings proposed a novel role of HuR in biogenesis of miRNAs, possibly by way of post-transcriptional regulation of miRNAs.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Transcription, Molecular biology, RNA, MicroRNA, Messenger RNA


To observe the plasticity changes of trigeminal motor nucleus (Mo5) and masseter H-reflex in unilateral mastication model rats and explore the possible mechanism of functional plasticity in motor center involved in unilateral mastication, 54 adult male Wistar rats were randomly divided into 1-month (n = 10), 3-month (n = 10), and 16-month (n = 7) model groups and their corresponding control groups, respectively. Unilateral mastication model rats were prepared by intermittent removal of clinical crowns of left teeth (model side). Rats were anesthetized (20% urethane, i.p.), and bilateral Mo5 were chosen to conduct extracellular recordings, while bilateral electromyography (EMG) of masseter muscle and its H-reflex were simultaneously recorded by a polygraph. It was observed that the firing rate of Mo5 neurons in model sides was significantly lower than that of right sides in 3 model groups, and that of left sides in their control groups. The response latency of Mo5, which was evoked by electrical stimulation of masseter nerve in model sides of 1-month and 3-month model groups, was significantly longer than that of left sides in their control groups. Moreover, the amplitude of H-wave in model sides of 3-month and 16-month model groups was lower than that of left sides in their control groups when H-reflex was evoked by electrical stimulation of left masseter nerve. These results suggest that unilateral mastication in model rats decreases the Mo5 neuron excitability, and this may be one of the functional plasticity mechanisms in motor center involved in unilateral mastication.

Concepts: Nervous system, Scientific method, Neuroanatomy, Muscle, Action potential, Cranial nerves, Electromyography, Medial pterygoid muscle


The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of different concentrations of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) on long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus of mice. C57BL/6J mice (30 days old) were randomly divided into control group, three CGRP groups, and CGRP + CGRP8-37group (10 mice for each group). Different concentrations of CGRP (50, 100 and 200 nmol/L) were given to the hippocampal slices of mice. The presynaptic release of neurotransmitters and the induction of LTP were measured by extracellular field recording techniques. The result showed that different concentrations of CGRP did not affect the presynaptic release of neurotransmitters, but 100 and 200 nmol/L CGRP increased the amplitude of LTP induced in the hippocampus of mice. This facilitation effect of CGRP was blocked by its specific antagonist CGRP8-37. These results suggest that CGRP dose-dependently facilitates the induction of LTP in the hippocampus of mice through its specific receptor.

Concepts: Calcitonin, Calcitonin gene-related peptide, Hippocampus, NMDA receptor, Long-term potentiation, Norepinephrine, Chemical synapse, Long-term memory


The objective of this study was to explore the roles of macrophages in the regeneration of injured skeletal muscle and the mechanisms involved. Mice were randomly divided into the following groups: muscle contusion (S), muscle contusion control (SCon), macrophages depleted (T) and macrophages depleted control (TCon) groups. Muscle contusion model was created by high-energy blunt injury. Macrophages depletion model was constructed by injection of clodronate-liposomes. Their gastrocnemius muscles were harvested at the time points of 1, 3, 7 and 14 d post-injury. The changes in skeletal muscle morphology were assessed by hematoxylin-eosin (HE) staining and Masson’s trichrome staining. The mRNA and protein levels of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and oxidative stress factors were analyzed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RCR) and Western blotting, respectively. HE staining results showed that a small amount of regenerating myofibers were observed in the S group (14 d post-injury), whereas a large number of regenerating muscle fibers were observed in the T group. Quantitative analyses showed that the sizes of regenerating myofibers were significantly smaller in the T group as compared with the S group at 14 d post-injury (P < 0.05). At the same time, Masson staining results showed that macrophage depletion significantly increased the area of fibrosis as compared with the S group at 14 d post-injury (P < 0.01). The expression levels of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and oxidative stress factors were increased significantly after muscle injury. Moreover, macrophage depletion increased the expressions of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and oxidative stress factors as compared with the S group during the later stage of injury (7-14 d post-injury). These results suggest that macrophages depletion can aggravate fibrosis and impair muscle regeneration, and inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and oxidative stress factors may be involved in this process.

Concepts: Gene expression, Molecular biology, Cell biology, Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Glycogen, Myosin, Muscular system


Microglia are the main immune cells in the central nervous system. In the present study, the mechanism for acetylcholine (ACh) inhibiting microglial inflammatory response was investigated. Primary culture of microglia was isolated from cerebral cortex of Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was used to activate the microglia to induce inflammatory response, and then the microglia were treated with ACh for 24 h. Protein expressions of several inflammatory factors, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAChR) were detected by Western blot. Release of inflammatory factors and IGF-1 into media was detected by ELISA. After α7nAChR gene silence was achieved by lentivirus-transfection of α7nAChR-shRNA, the change of ACh effect was observed. The results showed that LPS induced microglial activation, up-regulated inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) protein expression, increased the expressions and release of IL-1β and TNF-α, and decreased the expression and release of the neurotrophic factor, IGF-1. ACh could reverse these effects of LPS. Meanwhile, LPS reduced the protein expression of α7nAChR on the microglial cells, whereas ACh could reverse the effect. Silencing of α7nAChR gene in microglia abolished the ability of ACh to inhibit LPS-induced inflammatory responses. These results suggest that ACh exerts its protection against LPS-induced microglial inflammation via acting on α7nAChR on microglia, which may provide a novel target for the treatment of neuro-inflammatory diseases.

Concepts: Nervous system, Nicotine, Neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine, Myasthenia gravis, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor, Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, Acetylcholine receptor


The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of hirsutine on apoptosis of breast cancer cells and its possible mechanism. The MCF-10A, MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells were treated with hirsutine at different concentrations for 48 h or incubated with 160 μmol/L hirsutine for 24, 48, and 72 h. The MCF-10A cell line is a non-tumorigenic epithelial cell line, and the MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 are human breast adenocarcinoma cell lines. CCK-8 assay was employed to detect the cell viability. Flow cytometry was used to assay the apoptosis and mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP). The protein expressions of Bcl-2, Bax, cleaved-caspase 9, cleaved-caspase 3 and cytochrome C (Cyt C) in the MDA-MB-231 cells were detected by Western blotting. The results showed that hirsutine remarkably reduced the viability of MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells in a time- and dose-dependent manner (P < 0.05) with IC50 values of 447.79 and 179.06 μmol/L, respectively. In the MDA-MB-231 cells, hirsutine induced apoptosis and depolarization of MMP (P < 0.05), released Cyt C from mitochondria (P < 0.05), and activated caspase 9 and caspase 3 (P < 0.05). However, these effects induced by hirsutine were all inhibited by cyclosporin A (CsA) (P < 0.05), a specific inhibitor of mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP). In addition, hirsutine down-regulated the protein level of Bcl-2 and up-regulated the protein level of Bax (P < 0.05). These results suggest that hirsutine may induce apoptosis of human breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells through decreasing the ratio of Bcl-2 to Bax, opening MPTP, releasing Cyt C from mitochondria, and activating caspase 9 and caspase 3.

Concepts: Cell, Mitochondrion, Cell biology, Apoptosis, Cellular respiration, Cytoplasm, Citric acid cycle, Cytochrome c