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Journal: The Journal of endocrinology


p70 S6 kinase (S6K1) is a serine/threonine kinase that phosphorylates the insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) at serine 1101 and desensitizes insulin receptor signaling. S6K1 hyperactivation due to overnutrition leads to hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes. Our recent study showed that A77 1726, the active metabolite of the anti-rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drug leflunomide, is an inhibitor of S6K1. Whether leflunomide can control hyperglycemia and sensitize the insulin receptor has not been tested. Here we report that A77 1726 increased AKTS473/T308and S6K1T389phosphorylation but decreased S6S235/236and IRS-1S1101phosphorylation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, C2C12 and L6 myotubes. A77 1726 increased insulin receptor tyrosine phosphorylation and binding of the p85 subunit of the PI-3 kinase to IRS-1. A77 1726 enhanced insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in L6 myotubes and 3T3-L1 adipocytes, and enhanced insulin-stimulated glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) translocation to the plasma membrane of L6 cells. Finally, we investigated the anti-hyperglycemic effect of leflunomide onob/oband high-fat diet (HFD)-induced diabetes mouse models. Leflunomide treatment normalized blood glucose levels and overcame insulin resistance in glucose and insulin tolerance tests inob/oband HFD-fed mice but had no effect on mice fed a normal chow diet (NCD). Leflunomide treatment increased AKTS473/T308phosphorylation in the fat and muscle ofob/obmice but not in normal mice. Our results suggest that leflunomide sensitizes the insulin receptor by inhibiting S6K1 activityin vitro, and that leflunomide could be potentially useful for treating patients with both RA and diabetes.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus type 2, Diabetes mellitus, Glucose, Blood sugar, Insulin resistance, Phosphorylation


Prenatal events such as intrauterine growth restriction can affect gonadal development of the offspring and have an impact on reproductive health.

Concepts: Human, Reproduction, Reproductive system


Early life vitamin D plays a prominent role in neurodevelopment and subsequent brain function, including schizophrenic-like outcomes and increasing evidence for an association with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here, we investigate how early life vitamin D deficiency during rat pregnancy and lactation alters maternal care and influences neurodevelopment and affective, cognitive and social behaviours in male adult offspring. Sprague-Dawley rats were placed on either a vitamin D control (2195 IU/kg) or deficient diet (0 IU/kg) for five weeks before timed mating, and diet exposure was maintained until weaning of offspring on postnatal day (PND) 23. MRI scans were conducted to assess brain morphology, and plasma corticosterone levels and neural expression of genes associated with language, dopamine and glucocorticoid exposure were characterised at PND1, PND12 and 4 months of age. Compared to controls, vitamin D-deficient dams exhibited decreased licking and grooming of their pups but no differences in pup retrieval. Offspring neurodevelopmental markers were unaltered, but vitamin D-deficient pup ultrasonic vocalisations were atypical. As adults, males that had been exposed to vitamin D deficiency in early life exhibited decreased social behaviour, impaired learning and memory outcomes and increased grooming behaviour, but unaltered affective behaviours. Accompanying these behavioural changes was an increase in lateral ventricle volume, decreased cortical FOXP2 (a protein implicated in language and communication) and altered neural expression of genes involved in dopamine and glucocorticoid-related pathways. These data highlight that early life levels of vitamin D are an important consideration for maternal behavioural adaptations as well as offspring neuropsychiatry.


The role of vitamin D in osteomineral metabolism is well known. Several studies have suggested its action on different biological mechanisms, such as nociceptive sensitivity and sleep-wake cycle modulation. Sleep is an important biological process regulated by different regions of the central nervous system, mainly the hypothalamus, in combination with several neurotransmitters. Pain, which can be classified as nociceptive, neuropathic and psychological, is regulated by both the central and peripheral nervous systems. In the peripheral nervous system, the immune system participates in the inflammatory process that contributes to hyperalgesia. Sleep deprivation is an important condition related to hyperalgesia, and recently it has also been associated with vitamin D. Poor sleep efficiency and sleep disorders have been shown to have an important role in hyperalgesia, and be associated with different vitamin D values. Vitamin D has been inversely correlated with painful manifestations, such as fibromyalgia and rheumatic diseases. Studies have demonstrated a possible action of vitamin D in the regulatory mechanisms of both sleep and pain. The supplementation of vitamin D associated with good sleep hygiene may have a therapeutic role, not only in sleep disorders but also in the prevention and treatment of chronic pain conditions.

Concepts: Immune system, Central nervous system, Nervous system, Vitamin D, Brain, Sleep deprivation, Neuroscience, Pain


Insulin modulates the biochemical pathways controlling lipid uptake, lipolysis and lipogenesis at multiple levels. Elevated insulin levels are associated with obesity, and conversely, dietary and pharmacological manipulations that reduce insulin have occasionally been reported to cause weight loss. However, the causal role of insulin hypersecretion in the development of mammalian obesity remained controversial in the absence of direct loss-of-function experiments. Here, we discuss theoretical considerations around the causal role of excess insulin and obesity, as well as recent studies employing mice that are genetically incapable of the rapid and sustained hyperinsulinemia that normally accompanies a high fat diet. We also discuss new evidence demonstrating that modest reductions in circulating insulin prevent weight gain, with sustained effects that can persist after insulin levels normalize. Importantly, evidence from long-term studies reveals that a modest reduction in circulating insulin is not associated with impaired glucose homeostasis, meaning that body weight and lipid homeostasis are actually more sensitive to small changes in circulating insulin than glucose homeostasis in these models. Collectively, the evidence from new studies on genetic loss-of-function models forces a re-evaluation of current paradigms related to obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes. The potential for translation of these findings to humans is briefly discussed.

Concepts: Metabolism, Nutrition, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, Obesity, Fat, Insulin resistance, Metabolic syndrome


There is growing evidence from animal and human studies that demonstrate that acquired paternal traits can impair both a male’s fertility and the health of his offspring, including advanced age, smoking, stress, trauma, under-nutrition, infection, toxin exposure, and obesity. Curiously, many of these factors manifest as impaired neurological, behavioural, and/or metabolic functioning in offspring. The underlying molecular mechanisms that respond to the paternal environment and act as vectors of intergenerational transmission are beginning to emerge. This review focuses on three vices of men (alcohol consumption, overweight/obesity, and tobacco smoking) that damage fertility and pose risks to offspring health. These vices are not only the three most prevalent but are also leading risk factors for death and disability adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide. Clearly, any epigenetic/genetic alterations induced by the paternal exposures responsible for transmission need to escape/bypass the substantial post-fertilisation reprogramming that occurs during embryo development. For example paternal obesity alters the molecular composition of sperm, alters the developmental trajectory of resultant embryos, and increase the incidence of obesity and metabolic disorders in offspring. Mechanistic candidates of paternal programming include changes to the sperm epigenome (eg DNA methylation, histone/protamine modifications, and sperm borne small non-coding RNAs), increased sperm DNA damage, aberrant sperm DNA chromatin structure, and components of seminal plasma. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underpinning paternal programming may lead to the development of interventions designed to reduce the disease burden in future generations, who were born to fathers exposed to these initiating factors. Given that these vices are predominantly self-inflicted, interventions aimed at mitigating their consequences are readily identified.

Concepts: DNA, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Histone, Epigenetics, Sperm, DNA methylation, Semen


Sirtuin1 (SIRT1), a NAD+-dependent deacetylase, has been connected to beneficial effects elicited by calorie restriction. Physiological adaptation to starvation requires higher activity of SIRT1 and also the suppression of thyroid hormone (TH) action to achieve energy conservation. Here we tested the hypothesis that those two events are correlated and that TH may be a regulator of SIRT1 expression. 48h-fasting mice exhibited reduced serum TH and increased SIRT1 protein content in liver and brown adipose tissue (BAT), and physiological thyroxine replacement prevented or attenuated the increment of SIRT1 in liver and BAT of fasted mice. Hypothyroid mice exhibited increased liver SIRT1 protein, while hyperthyroid ones showed decreased SIRT1 in liver and BAT. In the liver, decreased protein is accompanied by reduced SIRT1 activity and no alteration in its mRNA. Hyperthyroid and hypothyroid mice exhibited increase and decrease in food intake and body weight gain, respectively. Food-restricted hyperthyroid animals (pair fed to euthyroid group) exhibited liver and BAT SIRT1 protein levels intermediary between euthyroid and hyperthyroid mice fed ad libitum. Mice with TH resistance at the liver presented increased hepatic SIRT1 protein and activity, with no alteration in SIRT1 mRNA. These results suggest that TH decrease SIRT1 protein, directly and indirectly, via food ingestion control and, in the liver, this reduction involves TRβ. The SIRT1 reduction induced by TH has important implication to integrated metabolic responses to fasting, since the increase in SIRT1 protein requires the fasting-associated suppression of TH serum levels.

Concepts: Hormone, Liver, Thyroid disease, Hypothyroidism, Thyroid, Thyroid hormone, Fasting, Triiodothyronine


Benign and malignant thyroid nodules are more prevalent in females than in men. Experimental data suggest that the proliferative effect of oestrogen rather than polymorphisms is responsible for this gender difference. This study analysed whether both differentiated thyroid cells and thyroid stem and progenitor cells are a target of oestrogen action. In thyroid stem/progenitor cells derived from nodular goitres the ability of 17beta-oestradiol to induce thyrosphere formation, the expression of oestrogen receptors and the effect of 17beta-oestradiol on growth, expression of marker of stem cells and thyroid differentiation (TSH receptor, thyroperoxidase, thyroglobulin, sodium iodide symporter expression) were analysed. 17beta-oestradiol induced thyrosphere formation, albeit to lower extent than other growth factors. Thyroid stem and progenitor cells expressed oestrogen receptor alpha and beta with an 8 time higher expression level of oestrogen receptor alpha mRNA compared to differentiated thyrocytes. 17beta-oestradiol was a potent stimulator of thyroid stem/ progenitor cell growth. In contrast, TSH-induced differentiation of progenitor cells, in particular the expression of the sodium iodide symporter, was significantly inhibited by 17beta-oestradiol.In conclusion, oestrogen stimulated growth and simultaneously inhibited differentiation of thyroid nodules derived stem/progenitor cells. From these data and based on the concept of cellular heterogeneity, we hypothesize a supportive role of oestrogen in the propagation of thyroid stem/progenitor cells leading to a selection of a progeny of growth-prone cells with a decreased differentiation. These cells may be the origin of hypo- or non-functioning thyroid nodules in females.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Gene expression, Developmental biology, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Estrogen receptor, Adult stem cell


Obesity and type 2 diabetes are associated with increased risk of breast cancer incidence and mortality. Common features of obesity and type 2 diabetes are insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. A mammary tumor promoting effect of insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia was demonstrated in the transgenic female MKR mouse model of pre-diabetes inoculated with mammary cancer cells. Interestingly, in MKR mice, as well as in other diabetic mouse models, males exhibit severe hyperglycemia, while females display insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia with only a mild increase in blood glucose levels. This gender-specific protection from hyperglycemia may be attributed to estradiol, a key player in the regulation of the metabolic state, including obesity, glucose homeostasis, insulin resistance, and lipid profile. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of ovariectomy (including the removal of endogenous estradiol) on the metabolic state of MKR female mice and subsequently on the growth of Mvt-1 mammary cancer cells, inoculated into the mammary fat pad of ovariectomized mice, compared with sham-operated mice. The results showed an increase in body weight, accompanied by increased fat mass, elevated blood glucose levels and hypercholesterolemia in ovariectomized MKR mice. In addition, mammary tumor growth was significantly higher in these mice. The results suggest that ovarian hormone deficiency may promote impaired metabolic homeostasis in the hyperinsulinemic MKR female mice, which in turn is associated with increased growth of mammary tumors.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Nutrition, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, Obesity, Blood sugar, Metabolic syndrome


Hypocalcemia is a metabolic disorder that affects dairy cows during the transition from pregnancy to lactation. Twelve multiparous Holstein cows and twelve multiparous Jersey cows were intravenously infused daily for approximately 7 days prepartum with either saline or 1.0mg/kg bodyweight of the immediate precursor to serotonin synthesis, 5hydroxy-l-tryptophan (5-HTP). On infusion days, blood was collected before, after, and at 2, 4, and 8h postinfusion. Blood and urine were collected daily before the infusion period, for 14 days postpartum and on day 30 postpartum. Milk was collected daily during the postpartum period. Feed intake and milk yield were unaffected by 5-HTP infusion postpartum. Cows infused with 5-HTP had elevated circulating serotonin concentrations prepartum. Infusion with 5-HTP induced a transient hypocalcemia in Jersey cows prepartum, but not in any other treatment. Holstein cows infused with saline had the highest milk calcium on the day of and day after parturition. Postpartum, circulating total calcium tended to be elevated, and urine deoxypyridinoline (DPD) concentrations were elevated in Holstein cows infused with 5-HTP. Overall, Jerseys had higher urine DPD concentrations postpartum when compared with Holsteins. Taken together, these data warrant further investigation of the potential therapeutic benefit of 5-HTP administration prepartum for prevention of hypocalcemia. Further research should focus on delineation of mechanisms associated with 5-HTP infusion that control calcium homeostasis during the peripartum period in Holstein and Jersey cows.

Concepts: Childbirth, Milk, Calcium, Cattle, Dairy farming, Dairy cattle, Veal, Jersey cattle